“If you are careful,’ Garp wrote, ‘if you use good ingredients, and you don’t take any shortcuts, then you can usually cook something very good. Sometimes it is the only worthwhile product you can salvage from a day; what you make to eat. With writing, I find, you can have all the right ingredients, give plenty of time and care, and still get nothing. Also true of love. Cooking, therefore, can keep a person who tries hard sane.”
~ John Irving,
I have a truckload of editing to do this week. So I’m grateful to have Moussaka in the freezer. There’s dinner sorted. And lunch. All I’ll have to do is defrost and then heat.
This is a yummy recipe that was given to me by a friend’s mum when I was back at high school and tasted authentic Greek food for the first time. This isn’t a difficult recipe. It takes a bit of time to pull all the components together, but the end result is well worth it – a savoury mince and layers of eggplant topped with a creamy bechamel sauce.
Perfect served with a fresh salad or seasonal vegetables. I make this recipe in a 30cm x 20cm baking dish, but use whatever you have to hand.
2 to 3 large eggplants, oil, salt and pepper
1 large onion finely chopped, 2 to 6 cloves of crushed garlic (I like a lot, but you might not!), 500 grams of beef mince, 1 x 400g can of diced tomatoes, 3 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, salt and pepper, olive oil
Three tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons plain flour (or gluten-free equivalent), 2 cups of milk, 1 egg, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 1/2 cup pizza cheese, salt and pepper
Slice the eggplant into rounds, about 1cm thick. Sprinkle lightly with salt and leave for an hour for them to sweat. Pat down with a clean dish towel to remove the moisture. This will remove any bitterness. If you are using small eggplant you can omit this step.
NB: While the eggplant is sitting, make your mince sauce.
Lightly brush or spray the eggplant slices with oil, and then grill or pan fry until browned on each side.
Set aside. Try not to eat too many. 🙂
Add a slurp of olive oil to the bottom of a large heavy-based pot over medium heat. Tip in the onions and garlic and when they begin to soften add the beef and cook until the meat has browned. Now add the tomatoes, tomato paste and spices. If possible, leave sauce to simmer, uncovered, for twenty to thirty minutes.
NB: While meat is simmering make bechamel sauce.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Tip in the flour and whisk well until combined. Slowly add milk, a little at a time, stirring all the while to avoid lumps! Keep stirring over medium heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Break the egg into a cup, beat lightly and then add a ladleful of hot sauce, stirring continuously. Tip this mixture back into the saucepan and stir well. Add the parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Stir and taste. Remove from heat. Yum!
Add a layer of eggplant to line the bottom of the baking dish.
Add minced meat and spread over the eggplant. Top with another layer of eggplant.
Spread the bechamel sauce over the top and then sprinkle the pizza cheese over the bechamel sauce.
Cook in a moderate oven (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit) for 45 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Stand for ten minutes before serving. Cut into squares. Devour!