Thursday, 12 June 2014


Moussaka is one of those things that I have wanted to cook for absolutely ages (well since I decided that I quite like aubergines after all) and have just never got around to.

I must have been in a particularly nostalgic mood recently as similar to the last recipe I was inspired by my holiday in Corfu with friends and while researching recipes wanted to try and replicate the one I had there as best I could (in short, layers of aubergine and potato with not too much bechamel: very important). It became apparent that lamb, as I had assumed, isn’t the traditional meat to use at all. Veal it seems, or at least a mixture of veal & pork is the way to go. Maybe beef & pork.

Oh well, I’m all for authenticity if I can manage it but in this case I’m sticking with lamb. For a start I love it and personally I think it marries best with the cinnamon and herbs in use. I think that hand minced, or at the very least finely chopped, lamb shoulder or leg roast leftovers would work fantastically well here but sadly, for this attempt, shop bought mince it is.

The next main ingredient is, of course, aubergine. Now these days pre-salting aubergines isn’t required if your intention is to leach out bitter juices as the fact is that bitterness has been bred out of modern aubergines. BUT, salting will in fact help the aubergines to soak up less oil. And what you don’t want is an overly oily moussaka.

Many recipes don’t call for potatoes in the moussaka which to be honest I find a little odd as whenever I have eaten moussaka on Greek islands they are always included and always serve to make it more delicious. Maybe that’s the Irish in me. Regardless, there was no way I was omitting a few slices of spud.

I didn’t want bechamel either and saw a recipe where greek yoghurt and eggs are mixed together with a dash of nutmeg for a sort of custardy topping: sounds a bit weird but I decided to give it a go.

And finally do allow your moussaka to rest a while once out of the oven: it will be easier to cut and serve for a start plus I believe that the flavours become more pronounced when it isn’t blisteringly hot.

Serves 4, generously

2 tbsp olive oil plus a little extra
1 large aubergine, thinly sliced, salted and drained
2 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick or 1 tsp ground
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves
500g minced lamb
200g passata
1 tsp tomato pureé
½ beef oxo cube
150ml white wine
Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
For the topping
150g Greek yoghurt
1 egg, beaten
40g feta, crumbled
20g parmesan, grated

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Place the aubergine and potato slices onto oiled baking sheets, brush with olive oil and season with a little sea salt and black pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden.

Meanwhile, put 2 tbsp olive oil into a large sauté pan over a medium heat and cook the onion until soft and translucent. About 10-15 minutes.

Add the garlic, cinnamon and oregano and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Stir in the lamb and turn the heat up slightly to brown the lamb well, cooking until the mixture is quite dry. Break down the lamb further as needed with the back of a wooden spoon.

Stir in the crumbled stock cube, tomato passata, pureé and wine, bring to a simmer.

Turn the heat down low and cook for as long as possible but as a minimum 30–40 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season and stir in the parsley.

Meanwhile, make the topping by beating the eggs into the yoghurt. Liberally grate in some nutmeg and stir through the feta and half the parmesan.

Grease the sides and bottom of a baking dish with olive oil and cover the bottom completely with a layer of potato, overlapping where necessary to ensure as complete a covering as possible.

Top this with half of the meat mixture, using a spoon to spread out and cover the potato completely.

If you have any potato left over, spread them out in a layer over the meat. Otherwise add the aubergine slices in a layer over the meat, again overlapping the slices to ensure coverage.

Spread the remaining meat mixture out evenly to cover the aubergine layer and then top this with the cheesy yoghurt sauce. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top.

Bake for about 45 minutes until well browned and then leave to stand for 30 minutes before serving.

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