Moussaka – The most traditional of Greek dishes & why do I still insist on asking my son, what he would like to eat?
As soon as the question is out of my mouth, I could kick myself, I will never learn. But, I know the answer…moussaka!
I love moussaka, but, it’s one of the most time consuming and fiddly Greek dishes to prepare.The preparation also creates piles of washing up, mostly pans, oily, sticky pans.
A pan to fry the aubergines (Egg plant), a pan to boil the potatoes, a pan to cook the mince and a pan to cook the bechamel sauce. Then it all goes into a huge oven roasting tin! It is definitely worth the effort though, moussaka must be the most traditional of Greek dishes, and is just delicious!
To make thinks easier, when preparing moussaka, it’s a good idea to have bought all ingredients the day before, that way, if it is to be eaten for lunch, you can crack on with it first thing in the morning. Another thing you can do, is prepare the meat sauce the night before, and store in the fridge.
So, here we go, let’s get started!
Aubergine or Eggplant
Vegetable oil for frying aubergines 1 kilo potatoes, peeled, and, boiled whole for 10 minutes4-5 large aubergines, cut into 1cm/½in slices, and 1 tbsp fine sea salt
Ingredients for The Meat sauce
1 Kilo beef or lamb mince
1 Onion finely chopped
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 Bay leaf
Approximately 10 Cloves, Whole
1 Carton concentrated tomato juice 500gr
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients for bechamel sauce
1.5 x litres milk
1.5 x cups plain flour 2 beaten eggs
1 x cup grated hard cheese
1 x Whole Nutmeg grated -A whole nutmeg, freshly grated, has much, much more flavour than powdered nutmeg.
LETS START COOKING!
Slice Aubergines and sprinkle with salt
This helps remove the bitterness from the aubergines.First thing, thinly slice the aubergines lengthwise, sprinkle with salt, and leave for about thirty minutes, you will see them start to “Sweat”.
Boil peeled potatoes, whole, for ten minutes, drain and leave to cool.
Prepare the Meat Sauce.
Add the tomato puree, along with a couple of cups of boiling water, stir well.Heat the olive oil, in a large pan, saute the chopped onion and garlic for 5 minutes and add the minced beef, saute for another ten minutes.
Pop in the bay leaf, the cinnamon stick, and throw in a few cloves, 10 or so.
(Grated cinnamon and cloves , can be used, but, you will get only half the flavour)
Season with salt & pepper.
Simmer the sauce for twenty to thirty minutes, stirring occasionally and adding hot water if necessary.
In a large frying pan, fry aubergine slices, until softened and golden brown, about five minutes or so, turn slices so they brown on both sides.While the meat sauce is cooking, rinse the aubergines well, under running water, drain, and pat dry with kitchen roll.
You may have to do this in two or three batches.
Drain fried aubergine slices on kitchen roll.
Prepare Bechamel Sauce
Using this method, I have never had that problem.People are nervous about making bechamel sauce, worrying that it will become lumpy.
I’m frequently asked;
“How do you make such a good bechamel sauce?” !
Melt about 200gr of butter, remove the pan from the heat, important, then, slowly add flour, stirring well, until the mixture forms a ball, and falls away from the sides of the pan, without sticking.
You may not need the whole 1.5 cups of flour, or, you may need more, just add enough to make the mixture form a ball, see above picture.
Gradually add the milk, first slowly, mixing well with a spoon, then as the mixture becomes more liquid, whisk well with a balloon whisk.
If you do spot lumps beginning to form, whisk as fast as you can for a minute!
Once all the milk has been added, grate in some nutmeg, a whole nutmeg!
Season with salt & pepper, if the cheese you have (This will be added later) is salty, go easy
on the salt in the bechamel.
Thickly slice the par boiled potatoes and cover the base of a large baking tin or, oven proof dish with all of them, we only use potatoes on the base.Pre – heat oven to 180 degrees C
Now, pour half the meat sauce (Don’t forget to discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaf) over the potatoes
Layer half the fried aubergines over the meat sauce.
Pour over the rest of the meat sauce, layer over that, the rest of the fried aubergines.
Pour the bechamel sauce over the top of everything, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon.
Place in the oven for about thirty minutes, or until bechamel sauce is golden brown on top.
Remove from oven, leave to cool for fifteen minutes or so, slice into squares and enjoy!
Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back!
You did it, you made moussaka!
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Seventeen chapters and two hundred and fifty, easy-to-follow, mouthwatering, traditional Greek recipes.
By Susan Athanasakou