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MOUSSAKA

October 25, 2010

Aubergines or eggplants look so sensuous, with their smooth purple shiny skin and attractive bulbous curves. They’re in season right now here at my local market with bowls and bowls of aubergines for sale. Aubergines belong to the Solanaceae family which includes deadly nightshade (belladonna), tomatoes and chilli peppers. These vegetables are very popular in France where they are used in ratatouille; in southern Italy, baked aubergines are layered to make a tasty dish called melanzane parmigana and last but not least the Greeks are famous for their moussaka.

Moussaka is what I planned to bake after the winter chill started and just fancied heart warming comfort food. Never made it before so decided to go with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe. Was worried about reputed massive amounts of oil being soaked up by the aubergines. So followed the advice of my friend who recommended salting slices of aubergines to leach the juices out. It worked, phew, relieved that the aubergines didn’t become oil sponges! Moussaka is a dish which requires alot of preparation work but it’s worth it to make every once in a while as the flavours do cause an adventure on the tastebuds with a satisfying warmth in your belly.

Moussaka

Serves 6

4 aubergines, cut lengthways into 5 mm slices

2-3 tsp salt

3-4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing

1 large onion, finely chopped

800g leftover roast lamb, roughly minced or fresh minced lamb

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 glass of red wine

1 cup of lamb gravy or lamb stock thickened with flour

salt and pepper for seasoning

2tbsp chopped parsley

For the topping:

2 whole eggs, plus 1 egg yolk

150 mL milk

250 g Greek yoghurt

A pinch of paprika

100 g kefalotyri cheese (or a mixture of parmesan and gruyere), grated

  1. Place the aubergine slices in a large colander and sprinkle salt over them and mix them around to ensure they are covered evenly with the salt. Place a bowl or plate on top of the colander and weight it down with something heavy so the aubergine juices are squeezed out. You can put a bowl under the colander to catch the juices if you wish. Leave for approximately 1 hour. 

    I used a heavy mortar to help squeeze the juices out.

  2. Meanwhile, heat half the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion for about 10 minutes until softened. Add the mince and turn the heat up to brown the meat. Then add  the garlic, cinnamon, tomato puree and wine to the pan. Cook for a few minutes and stir to mix everything, add the lamb gravy and a wine glass of water if it doesn’t look wet enough. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s starting to look a bit dry, add a bit more water so you should end up with a rich sauce. Season and then add the parsley.
  3. Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius/400 degrees Farenheit/Gas mark 6. Juices from the aubergines should have leached out, squeeze more out by pushing a bowl or small plate on top of the aubergines in the colander. Dry the aubergine slices with kitchen paper. Place the slices in a baking tray and drizzle with the remaining oil. Shake the tray to mix the aubergines with the oil and use your hands to ensure the slices are well oiled. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes or until browned and tender. Take the tray out of the oven and season with black pepper. Then turn the oven down to 180 degrees Celcius/350 degrees Farenheit/Gas mark 4.
  4. Make the topping by whisking the whole eggs and egg yolk together in a big bowl. Bring the milk to the boil and slowly pour onto the eggs whisking constantly. Add the yoghurt, paprika, salt and pepper to season, mix, then stir in the cheese.
  5. Brush a large oven-proof baking dish with olive oil and place one third of the aubergine slices on the bottom of the tray in a single layer. Spoon half the meat over them. Then layer another third of the aubergine slices on top of the meat and then add the final half of the meat. Add the last third of aubergines on top of the meat and pour the cheese sauce on top. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until browned on top. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. I served mine accompanied with chunky chips and salad.
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. bob permalink
    November 10, 2010 6:38 pm

    Yum Yum guess where I haver been…

    Me and Sandra got married and went on honeymoon. We have been allover the Britain on an extended 3 month honeymoon. We ate in every little chef left on A roads of Britain! Its such good value and varied.

    Guess what Sandra loves aubergines too. Not the taste of them. Like you she loves how they look and feel.

    • November 11, 2010 10:28 pm

      Oh my God! Congratulations! I wish you all the best in your new adventures with Sandra!
      AND, I hope you had a wicked time in Britain on your honeymoon. Oh yes, the Little Chef, I’ve not been there since I was a child, I bet it’s changed alot since then.
      I’ll be posting some more recipes soon!

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