Moussaka

moussaka15

I had 2 wonderful visitors from Malaysia a few weeks ago. These 2 ladies (Zaza and Maton) are super travellers! They went to Santorini and Meteora, amongst a lot of other places. But a trip to Greece would be incomplete if they didn’t have a chance to taste moussaka. So I decided to make some for them! I hope they liked it!

The first time I made this dish was in my first year of university. My then-boyfriend (now-husband!) called his Mom in Thessaloniki, Greece and she instructed me on how to make this dish from scratch. My first attempt at béchamel sauce was surprisingly successful! I fried all the potatoes and aubergines that first time, but I have decided to bake them this time. Season the vegetables well and coat them generously with olive oil, and it should taste as good (and a bit healthier!) than frying them in oil. Kefalotyri is a Greek cheese, and it is hard, yellow and salty – and I use it quite often in this house as an alternative to parmesan. If you can’t find any kefalotyri, pecorino or parmesan is an alternative.

There are many variations  – without potatoes, layers of aubergines and meat sauce, more spices (and some much less), and you can even add courgettes too if you want – and I would never say that my version is the authentic one. I am planning to make a vegetarian version one of these days. Watch this space!

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium aubergines, sliced lengthwise
  • 3-4 large potatoes, sliced
  • 500g of minced meat (preferably lamb, but I used beef here.)
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes, which I have blended into a fine tomato sauce in my mixer, with half a glass of water)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tsp of oregano
  • 1/4 tsp of dried thyme
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • a pinch of sugar
  • a handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the béchamel:

  • 500ml of milk (it tastes richer if you use evaporated milk)
  • 50g of butter
  • 50g of plain flour
  • 50g of kefalotyri cheese, grated (or use any hard cheese like pecorino)
  • 2 eggs, beaten.
  • Nutmeg, grated.

 

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Place the aubergine slices on to oiled baking sheets. Brush them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until soft, golden and floppy. Continue with the remaining aubergines and potatoes. (Cook the potatoes until it is slightly crispy at the edges.)moussaka03
  2. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan heat up 2-3 tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat, and cook the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add in the minced meat, and cook until the mixture is rather dry. Stir in the tomato and wine, and bring the heat down to a simmer. Add the oregano, thyme, sugar and cinnamon stick. Stir and let cook.moussaka08
  3. Once the liquid has reduced slightly, add in the parsley and stir.moussaka09
  4. Continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened and nearly all liquid has evaporated. Remove the cinnamon stick, and set aside.moussaka11
  5. How to make béchamel sauce: In a pot, heat the milk slightly, to just below boiling point.bechamel02
  6. In another saucepan, melt the butter. Stir the flour into the butter and cook for a couple of minutes. You will smell the slightly nutty smell of flour frying in the butter.bechamel03
  7. Add a bit of milk into the flour-butter mix, and whisk, until the liquid has been absorbed by the flour. Continue gradually with small amounts of milk, and whisk! Remember to do this gradually, with small amounts of milk every time. bechamel04
  8. Cook until you have a thick sauce. Take it off the fire and immediately stir in the cheese.bechamel05
  9. Allow it cool slightly, and then add the beaten eggs into the sauce, and whisk until smooth. Season with a pinch of salt and add grated nutmeg. Add more than you might think wise – I was told I didn’t add enough even though I added 1/4 tsp. Aim for at least 1/2 tsp of grated nutmeg. Be generous!bechamel06
  10. Now for the moussaka: Arrange a layer of potatoes at the bottom of a baking dish. Then arrange a layer of aubergines on top.moussaka07
  11. Top the layers with the meat sauce.moussaka13
  12. Top with the béchamel sauce. bechamel07
  13. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until well-browned. Then set aside and leave to cool, allowing it to set. It is easier to cut the moussaka when the dish is cool. moussaka14
  14. Serve and enjoy! This is one dish that tastes better the day after, too.moussaka02

 

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