Moussaka

I don’t honestly even like moussaka much. By my wife loves it (and aubergines more generally), so a while back (pre-lockdown) she ordered it in a supposed Greek restaurant, only to find that what arrived resembled a shepherd’s pie: very little aubergine all mixed in with the meat sauce, and with a layer of mashed potato on top in place of the white sauce. Ugh.

Here’s how it should look (stolen from a recipe on the BBC website)

Anyway, being the exemplary husband that I am, I cooked a moussaka for her, more according to her preferences. This is the recipe I landed on (having read two or three that were in the ballpark but not quite right).

  • Slice three aubergines transversely into slices about a centimeter thick. Lay them in baking trays and bake them in an over at 200 degrees C for half an hour or so, turning after fifteen minutes.
  • Finely chop one large onion and three cloves of garlic, and fry them in olive oil.
  • Add 500g minced lamb, one teaspoon dried oregano, two bay leaves and one teaspoon powdered cinnamon. Stir until the meat is brown.
  • Mix in one tablespoon of plain flour. When it’s all absorbed, add a glass of red wine and a tin of tomatoes, finely chopped.
  • Pour another glass of red wine, and drink it as you continue.
  • Leave the meat sauce simmering to reduce as you make the white sauce topping: start by melting 50 g butter.
  • Add plain flour — enough that the butter absorbs it all and becomes a thick paste.
  • Slowly add milk, continuing to cook, until the sauce is the texture of thick cream.
  • Add 50 g of grated cheddar and mix in.
  • Add one teaspoon of powdered nutmeg and mix in.
  • Finally, break one egg into the mixture and immediately stir it vigorously into the sauce so it doesn’t cook in place.
  • Now you’re ready to assemble the moussaka:
    • Place a layer of aubergines in the bottom of your over-proof dish.
    • Top it with a layer of meat sauce.
    • Keep alternating layers of aubergine and meat sauce until they’re exhausted.
    • Cover it all with the white sauce, spread thickly and evenly.
    • Sprinkle the top with another 25 g of grated cheddar.
  • Bake at 200 degrees C for about half an hour. Keep an eye on it, so you can yank it out if it’s starting to burn.

That’s it. Fiona loves it, and even I have to admit it’s not bad.

2 responses to “Moussaka

  1. That sounds like an improvement. We do something like that. Some variations based on our favorite version:
    – Add raisins, tomato paste, fresh mint, and/or fresh parsley to the meat sauce. Mint gives it more Greek. A few tbsp of tomato paste adds umami. It’s a common cooking cheat for tomato sauces.
    – Use kasseri cheese in the mornay sauce.Goose it with yogurt, ideally Greek yogurt, for extra tang.
    – Add a mashed potato layer or two. Just potatoes, mashed.

  2. Raisins? Would never have occurred to me. Can’t see myself trying it :-)

    Mint, though: that seems like a smart move. Tomato paste is kinda obvious, but yes.

    Mashed potato: I can see it working, but given our personal history with this dish I think it’s a non-starter for us.

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