Moussaka is not one of those fast and easy dishes you'd make after a long day at work; rather one of those meals served at family dinners, the type of dish your mum or gran would have spent the whole morning or afternoon cooking. Nice, comforting, delicious food.
Though it is served in other Eastern Mediterranean countries and has an Arabic name, we tend to associate Moussaka with Greece, and that’s where it immediately takes me back to every time I have it. The Greek version is - simply-put - a three layered gratin/casserole consisting of a ground lamb stew, fried slices of aubergines (eggplants) and a white béchamel sauce topping.
As long as you get all your ingredients ready and go through each step of the recipe one at time, it really isn’t that difficult. It does take time, but the good news is, everything can be prepared in advance. So, you have no excuse really. Let’s get cooking!
Tried & Tasted RecipesFor the meat layer:
- 800g ground lamb (or beef)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 100 ml red wine
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ¼ tsp oregano or mixed herbs
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp olive oil
For the aubergines:
- 4 medium size aubergines
- 1 cup vegetable oil
For the white sauce:
- 45g plain flour
- 45g butter
- 600 ml milk
- 2 eggs
Wash the aubergines and trim off the ends. Cut into ½ cm thick slices (either lengthways or sideways). Sprinkle liberally with salt and leave aside in a colander for at least 30 minutes. This will help the aubergines lose some of their bitterness and natural liquids.
Fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil. Add the meat and continue stirring. Add seasoning, herbs and spices. Add tomatoes, wine and tomato paste. Cook for at least 20 minutes so all the flavours combine and the excess liquid has been absorbed. Cover and leave aside.
There are two ways of preparing them:
- the healthy and fastest way: brush slices with oil, lay on a baking tray and grill or bake in oven; or
- the less healthy and more time consuming way: fry the aubergines in batches. This will use a lot more oil and you’ll only be able to do a few slices at a time.
Put flour and butter in a large saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until combined; start adding the milk and continue stirring until all the milk has been added and the sauce thickens and starts to bubble. Let it simmer over a very low heat for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Leave aside to cool and whisk in the eggs.
Preheat oven at 350°F/180°C
Spread half the meat mixture into a baking dish. Place a layer of aubergine slices on top, overlapping them slightly.
Cover with the rest of the meat and then the other half of the aubergines. Pour the béchamel evenly over the top.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.
Allow the Moussaka to rest for a few minutes before serving; it will be easier to slice and you would be keeping with tradition as this dish is usually served warm, not piping hot.Oh, and in case there are any leftovers, this is even better served the next day.