Monday, November 19, 2007


I am taking a break from the challenge for one week, but will publish one tried and tested recipe from my collection daily until next Sunday when the challenge will continue.

I first encountered Moussaka on a holiday in Greece. The high tourist season was over and some of the little family restaurants were closing for the winter. I was looking for a place to eat, but every place that had been open the day before seemed to have closed. It was dark already when discovered a tiny, open-air corner restaurant, where I ordered moussaka, the first time I ever tried it.

I can still remember the taste, smooth and soft with a slight hint of cinnamon. Try as I may, I have never been able to reproduce a moussaka the way I remember it from that first time, but here is a very good recipe that I sometimes use. The original recipe I based it on came from some women's magazine, but it has changed in accordance with my tastes and the availability of ingredients.

Serves 4
1 large (about 300 g) eggplant, or substitute with potatoes if eggplant is not available
About 225 g potatoes, or 525 g if eggplant is not available
350 g minced lamb or mutton, lightly browned (beef may be substituted but lamb is better)
6 tbs olive oil
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
225 g ripe tomatoes, peeled and deseeded, or 1 standard can
1 tbs tomato purée
4 tbs lamb or vegetable stock
1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
salt & ground black pepper to taste
1-2 tbs olive oil
A pinch of cinnamon (optional)
100 g Parmesan cheese, grated
2 eggs
300 ml Greek yogurt (I use skyr, which is of similar consistency and flavour)

Trim the eggplant and cut into slices, about 5 mm. thick. Sprinkle salt on the slices and leave to drain in a colander for about 30 minutes. Rinse with cold water and pat dry.
Peel the potatoes and cut into slices, same thickness as the eggplant. Heat 1-2 tbs. olive oil in a frying pan and lightly brown the lamb mince. Remove from the pan.

Heat the oven to 190°C while you prepare the meat sauce:
Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the eggplant slices for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until soft. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the potato slices for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and drain. Add onion and garlic to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Remove the pan from the stove, and add the pre-cooked lamb mince. Stir to mix. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, stock and parsley, if using. Season with cinnamon, salt and pepper and mix well.

Arrange the eggplant slices (or half the potatoes if you're not using eggplant) on the bottom and around the sides of an oven-proof casserole dish (must take at least 1200 ml). Put half the meat sauce on top. Top with potato slices, and cover with the rest of the meat sauce.

Beat together the Greek yogurt, eggs and Parmesan cheese, add a pinch of salt and pour over the top. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling hot and the topping is golden.

Grated cheese, such as Gouda, may be sprinkled on top for a more cheesy flavour.
Serve with Greek salad and crusty bread.

I usually make a full recipe, put half in a casserole dish for cooking immediately, and the other half I divide between one portion freezer- and oven proof aluminium food containers which I pop in the freezer. This dish keeps well frozen.

Simple Greek salad:
Chop some fresh tomatoes and cucumber into coarse pieces. Mix in a bowl. Add thin slices of red onion along with some black olives and pieces of feta cheese. Grind some black pepper over the salad and add some salt to taste. Pour a little olive oil over the salad and stir to coat (if the feta came in spiced oil, use that). Chill for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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