Moussaka

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My lil brother gifted me a few cookbooks recently. Well they aren’t really cookbooks, but two huge files that have hundreds of various delicacies in them. He cut out recipes from numerous sources and sheepishly handed me his prized blue file, wanting me to make those recipes that caught his fancy.

One particular recipe that I was intrigued by was mousakás / Moussaka. A traditional Greek dish made with aubergines, beef,tomatoes, béchamel sauce, and lots of cheese. Kinda like a lasagna. But without the pasta. The aubergine replaces the pasta sheets in Moussaka.Its a perfect dinner dish, highly filling and uses cheap, readily available ingredients and is amazingly easy to prepare
This recipe comes straight from the kitchens of Views Restaurant, Le Meridien Al Aqah, Fujairah.
I halved the given recipe and made my own béchamel sauce and used fresh tomatoes in place if tomato paste.

However you can use readily available white sauce (Not in India), and tomato paste if you want. Since i halved the recipe, I’m putting down the original measurements.

It doesn’t matter if  you’ve ever had Moussaka  before or not, this is one recipe that will not disappoint 🙂

Ingredients:

For the Moussaka you’ll need:

  • 800 grams large aubergines sliced into 1.5 cm thick slices
  • 3 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 200 grams onion chopped
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 500 grams of minced lamb/beef
  • 125 grams tomato paste or 4-5 freshly chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 35 grams fresh parsley (I skipped adding this, but highly recommended)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 20-30 grams multigrain/plain bread crumbs
  • dash of Cinnamon
  • dash of Nutmeg
  • 1 cup of grated cheese preferably Parmesan but I used Mozzarella that’s easily available around here

 For the Béchamel sauce:

  • 100 grams of butter
  • 1/3 cup of flour
  • 2 ½ cups of milk
  • Nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper

Recipe:

  • First cut the aubergines into 1.5 cm thick slices and generously rub these slices with salt. Doing this ensures that most of the natural bitterness found in aubergines has gotten away. Put some heavy weight on this so that the excess water from the aubergines has drained. Let it rest like this for around 30 minutes while you make the rest.
  • While it is draining, we can start preparing the Moussaka filling.
  • First add some oil onto a pan and add the onions and garlic cloves. Mix till transparent.100_5185
  • Add in the minced beef and let it brown. Once browned, add in the tomato paste, nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin , salt and 5 grams of parsley. Cook for around 5- 10 minutes.100_5191
  • However since I used fresh tomatoes, I had to cook this for almost 20 minutes for the tomatoes to get really mushy.Set aside.

For the Béchamel sauce:

  • In a small saucepan melt 100 grams of butter.
  • Add 1/3 cup of flour to the melted butter and mix thoroughly to form  a “roux”. This is just a flour and butter paste. its easier if you use a hand whisk, but if you don’t have one of these a wooden spoon is perfectly adequate.
  • Allow your roux to cook for two minutes then turn off the heat.100_5178
  • In another saucepan add a bay leaf and a sprinkle of nutmeg to 2 ½ cups of milk and bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes.100_5179
  • Add your roux to the milk. When you do this, you want to prevent any lumps forming, so keep the heat low and whisk constantly until the roux is thoroughly blended into the milk.
  • Simmer for a further 5 minutes stirring constantly.
  • Add in the salt and pepper.
  • Remove the bay leaf and take the white sauce off the heat.100_5184

Next, rinse the eggplants under cold water and pat dry with a towel. Ideally  use a reasonable amount of pressure – to remove even more moisture.

In a non stick pan, pour some olive oil and fry the eggplant slices in olive oil until they are just starting to brown. No further.

Alternatively, you could drizzle some olive oil on the aubergines and bake them in a preheated oven at 180 C for around 8 minutes.

Assembling:

  • Use a oven proof dish and line with foil (Optional, but recommended). Sprinkle breadcrumbs generously all over . arrange aubergine slices in an even layer on top.100_5198
  • Sprinkle with oregano. top with minced beef. 100_5199
  • Pour over sauce. Garnish with Parmesan and remaining parsley .100_5201

Another way of layering them would be:

  • A layer of eggplant slices
  • A layer of lamb/tomato mix
  • A layer of eggplant slices
  • A layer of lamb/tomato mix
  • A layer of eggplant slices
  • A layer of white sauce
  • Cheese100_5202

I did both of them and prefer a single layer of each. Multiple layers make it harder for me to serve.

Bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for 25 minutes and reduce the temperature to 180 C for the next 5-10 minutes.

Serve warm.

Here, have a bite!

Here, have a bite!

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