Cook: Moussaka

Cook: Moussaka

I love lamb and I love bechamel sauce, so as the weather got cooler, I got my mini casserole dishes out and announced to my housemate that he was to come home hungry from work, because I had plans. I was making moussaka – the perfect blend of lamb, eggplant and cheese that only the Greeks could’ve invented. Because they know what’s up. (Seriously, I don’t know how I wasn’t born Greek, it’s ridiculous.)

This moussaka is inspired by a Maggie Beer recipe, partly because there’s no chef I trust more and partly because well… no, there’s only one reason: I trust Maggie Beer more than any other celebrity cook. Her recipes are completely achievable by a home cook and when she does call on an ingredient or technique that isn’t easy, she offers great alternatives or instructions on where to get something/how to do something.

I made four of these and after baking them all off, froze two for dinners later in the week. I had one very happy housemate that week and he’s started hinting at wanting lasagne next, because he’s heard I do a mean one.

The ingredients list is quite long but I promise it’s not at all overwhelming, in fact once you’ve got everything in front of you, you’ll realise just how manageable it is. Best bit? Half these ingredients are store cupboard essentials, so you’ll hardly have to pick up much at the supermarket. Also, it’s SO easy, I swear it!

moussaka2

Ingredients:

Base

  • 2 large eggplants
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1/2 inch piece fresh cinnamon (alt: 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 tincrushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

Crust

  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tbs flat leaf parsley, chopped

Bechamel

  • 2 tbs parmesan cheese, grated
  • 50g butter
  • 50g flour
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 pinch grated nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Cut the eggplant in 1cm slices, brush with olive oil, season with salt and bake in the oven at 250C for 8-10 mins, turning them over half way – set aside to cool
  2. Sautee the onion in a frying pan at a medium heat, add the garlic and cook through, put aside to cool
  3. Salt and brown the meat in batches at a high temperature in the frying pan. Here’s how I did it: I portioned out the lamb mince into six pieces, salted each and then cooked each batch off, no oil, until browned. As I finished each batch, I tipped it into a large bowl to sit and then threw in the next batch (you MUST do this in batches, as otherwise you risk ‘boiling’ the meat’)
  4. After you’ve cooked off all the meat, tip it back into the frying pan, add the cinnamon, the onion and garlic, tomato paste and deglaze the pan with the red wine. Then add the tinned tomatoes and parsley. Simmer for 20 minutes on a low heat
  5. While the meat is simmering, make the bechamel sauce by melting the butter and then sprinkling the flour over it and cook until the flour colours just slightly and loses it’s raw flavour (watch this, it goes from raw to burnt VERY quickly and burnt flour is disgusting)
  6. Remove from heat and pour the milk in, then the stock, dribbling each in and whisking continuously while dribbling it in – return the pan to the stove and continue to whisk until thickened and it coats the back of a spoon
  7. Remove it from the pan again, add the nutmeg, salt, pepper and then stir in the cheese and set aside, covered, so it doesn’t form a film
  8. To build the moussaka, spray your casserole dish (or dishes, if doing individual ones like mine) with a little olive oil, place a layer of eggplant on the bottom, then a layer of lamb mince, eggplant, lamb mince, finishing with a layer of eggplant
  9. Pour the bechamel sauce over the top of the eggplant and meat
  10. Mix the bread crumbs with the cheese and parsley and sprinkle this over the top
  11. Bake in a preheated 200C oven for 30mins

As I mentioned before, this dish freezes really well and can be thawed in the fridge and then reheated in the oven for 15-2omins on the lower racks (because you don’t want to burn the bread crumbs) if you have leftovers. Happy cooking!