Oddly, I’ve not made very many Moussakas, as I was always a bit intimidated by the complexity of the recipe. However, it dawned on me recently that it is no more difficult than making a Lasagne. This one was a bit special. Not only was it made with minced lamb from our local butcher, but also it wasn’t made with the ubiquitous cheese sauce that slathers most “Moussaka” dishes these days.
I had looked and looked for a recipe that echoed the Moussaka I would get from the little Greek Restaurant that used to be by the side of the County Hall in Kingston Upon Thames, many many moons ago.
That version didn’t carry a cheese sauce, it had a creamy eggy mixture that sat so well with the aubergines and lamb and was far nicer than coating everything in a claggy cheese sauce.
After a quite exhaustive search, I settled upon a recipe from Lotte Duncan. Although I can’t help but think that the onions she is used to getting wherever she lives, have got to be way smaller than the onions I’m used to getting – as no way was I putting five of the things into this recipe!
The minced lamb came from our local butcher (Spring Fields Catering Butchers) and was minced to order. When I put it into the hot pan to brown, the overpowering smell of sheep quite knocked me backwards. However, that was soon replaced by a more rounded lamby smell that had my mouth watering. It was really quite remarkable, the difference between that lamb mince and the sort that comes from the Supermarket. Yes, it was slightly more expensive by about 80p or so, but the quality was far superior.
This Moussaka recipe not only didn’t include the cheese sauce, but also left out the potato that seems to have infested most Moussaka recipes. The aubergine slices I cooked in the oven, drizzled with oil, so as not to use the degree of oil that would be required to pan-fry them. With a layer of aubergine, then the lamb mince mixture (which had been cooked in red wine and herbs), then more aubergine, a layer of sliced tomatoes and a lamb stock/tomato puree mix poured over, it made the kitchen smell extremely interesting. After 30 minutes of oven baking, you add the final flourish of an egg/cream mixture and return it to the oven to finish baking.
I served it with a big plate of “serve yourself” salad, made from Rocket, sliced tomatoes interspersed with sliced cucumber, red onion, Greek Feta cheese and olives, all drizzled with olive oil.
If I was to tell you that the three of us ate very well from them both for dinner last night, and the remainder of the Moussaka disappeared while I was at work and son was at school, you’ll get some idea of how well received it was. It truly is a rare thing for hubby to tuck into leftovers, but then that’s the ultimate objective – to provide good healthy food and have it enjoyed.
|The tomatoes look rather like slices of salami here,|
but they are tomato, honest!
MOUSSAKA (feeds 4-5)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 aubergines, sliced
2 large onions, sliced
500g minced lamb
150ml red wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 large sprig (or a flat teaspoonful, if dried) of thyme
1 pinch black pepper
6 tomatoes, sliced
150ml lamb stock
5 tbsp tomato puree
2-3 eggs, depending on size
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp double cream
1. Preheat the oven to 180deg C/gas mark 4.
2. Place the aubergine slices on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes or until they feel cooked through when a knife is inserted. Leave to cool slightly.
3. Heat the remainder of the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the onions. Cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring often, until browned and soft. Remove and place to keep warm.
4. Place the minced lamb in the pan and fry, stirring often, until browned. Remove all fat that has accumulated and return the onions to the pan.
5. Add the red wine, cinnamon and thyme. Bring to the boil and cook briskly until the red wine is reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper and remove the cinnamon stick.
6. Place half the fried aubergine in the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Spoon over the lamb mixture, then top with the remaining aubergine and finally the tomato slices.
7. Mix the stock with the tomato puree and pour into the dish.
8. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
9. In a bowl, beat together the eggs, milk and cream and season well with salt & pepper. Pour over the top of the tomatoes and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or so, or until the egg is set and browned.
Serve with a Greek Salad of tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, red onion & olives.