Everytime I hear the word moussaka, it makes me think of Toila’s classmate in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” – “moo – ssaka?”
It brings back good memories of our trip to Santorini for a family friends wedding a couple of years ago. This rich, luscious dish tastes OH so good with a glass of wine, some crusty bread and a fresh salad.
What made this dish so good was a.) the fresh tomatoes and eggplants from my sister in laws garden (Julia – the greenthumb); b.) the combination of the bitter silverbeet salad that cut through the richness of the rich sauce, and c.) I was chuffed with the fact that I was able to create this dish coming home straight from the farm, without a trip to the supermarket to get supplies (I had everything in the fridge and pantry).
So much of my cooking is done with ingredients that I happen to have lying round. I’ve never been good at following recipes word for word. This means that my dishes rarely taste exactly the same, each time I make them.
So a traditional Moussaka (and please do not get me wrong – I am absolutely no traditionalist when it comes to Greek cooking) uses lamb for the meat sauce. But I happened to have some beef mince in the freezer so this is what we are rolling with for this dish.
And.. I know it is poor form for a cook to rate their own meal – but gosh this was delish if I do say so myself. Our good friend and regular dinner companion, Wag reckons its the best meal he has had at our place (and that’s a lot of meals!)
Of course, the girls helped every step of the way – sprinkling the cheese and white sauce along with placing the grilled eggplant layer by layer. A team effort. It isn’t ‘everyday’ food as it is very rich and takes a little bit of time, however, gosh is it a show stopper for when friends come over for dinner. It can also be made ahead of time which is great for entertaining!
lo’s moussaka (made with love and fresh veggies from Julia’s garden)
For the meat sauce
500 grams of beef mince
1 brown onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
Tomato paste sachet
Heaped teaspoon of strawberry jam (learnt this from Prim’s dad, Simon, who puts this in his bolognese sauce for sweetness)
Sprinkle of chilli flakes
Tablespoon of tomato relish
Shake of Worcester sauce
For the white sauce
50 grams of butter
Heaped tablespoon plain flour
About a schooner glass of milk
Freshly grated nutmeg (or ground nutmeg)
Freshly cracked pepper
3 x eggplants sliced thinly
Fresh breadcrumbs for the topping
Grated tasty cheese
Butter for greasing the dish
- Salt each of the eggplants with a good pinch of salt on both sides and leave in a colander for 30 minutes.
- Heat a dash of olive oil in a heavy based saucepan and soften the onion and garlic.
- Add the mince and brown. Add some salt and pepper.
- Once the mince has browned, add the tomato paste and mix in.
- Add the tomatoes, Worcester sauce, relish, chilli flakes, jam and half a cup of water and bring to the boil.
- Back off and let it simmer slowly while you get cracking on the other elements of the dish. NB: Stir occasionally and add a dash of water if it is starting to lose all of its moisture.
- Once the meat sauce is up and running, rinse the eggplants off under the tap and drain on absorbent paper. Then, on a griddle pan, grill the eggplant both sides in some olive oil and reserve on some absorbent kitchen paper.
- Make the white sauce – to do this, in a small saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour and stir until it is all coated and the flour has been cooked off (work quickly here). While whisking, slowly pour the milk in until it thickens and starts resembling a nice thick white sauce. NB: Be careful to not have the heat too high. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper and leave aside.
- In a lasagna dish, rub butter over the base and then add a layer of meat sauce, followed by a layer of the eggplants, then white sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. Repeat these layers 3 times or thereabouts until all ingredients have been used up.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and extra grated cheese on top. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the top and bake in a moderate oven (180℃) for approximately 30 minutes or until brown on top and bubbling up around the breadcrumbs.
Serve with crusty bread, a glass of chilled white wine and a fresh, bitter salad of rocket leaves or the silverbeet salad!