Moussaka

The Greek national dish Moussaka, for a summer dinner. A drop of Lambrinì Theodossious olive oil from Plomari on the romantic island of Lesbos, adds just that extra beam of sunshine.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2013

As much as I love Italian cuisine, pasta has not so far made it into my top favourite dishes. However, in many respects a Greek Moussaka could be seen a lighter version of a Lasagna, that will leave some room for that special cherry chocolate tiramisù dessert, that indeed is one of my favourites.

Since there are so many good Moussaka recipes to be found on the Internet by the click of a ‘mouse’ I will not go into all the details of this dish but just mention some ideas that I find useful myself.

There are four steps in putting this dish together. A little bit time consuming maybe, but well worth it in the end.

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro thyme

Thyme into the meat sauce.

1. Meat sauce

Make your favourite minced meat and tomato sauce. I like to have mine chunky with big pieces of tomatoes in it. Here, I used 2 braised onions to 1 pound (500g) of minced beef. I used thyme as the main herb of flavour. Black pepper is also nice and maybe one could add a meat cube and 1-2 tablespoons of honey for a fuller taste.

I usually cook and freeze a large batch of meat sauce when I am at it because I find it a great time saver when you want to use some as a base for more complicated cooking, or for when some guests drop in on surprise visits.

For Moussaka purposes, I would spice up the basic meat sauce with some extra peeled tomatoes, some garlic and a generous dash of red wine, in the sauce.

2. Eggplants / aubergines
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Peel off half of the peel in alternating 1 inch wide stripes.

Four eggplants, about 1 kg, is about right for 4-6 servings. Peel off half of the peel in alternating 1 inch wide stripes. You will want some of the bitterness of the peel in it for flavor and the peel also give some structure to the slices. Slice in 1,5 cm (1/2 inch) slices. Put in a tub or a plastic bag. Drizzle about 1 tbsp. of salt over the slices and let them pickle for 1 hour. Soak and rinse for some 10 minutes to get most of the salt out of them. Squeeze to get rid of the water. Taste for saltiness. Don’t let them get boring.

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Drizzle about 1 tbsp. of salt over the slices and let them pickle for 1 hour.

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Now, take six eggs. Separate the whites from the yolks into two different bowls.

Whip the egg whites with some water. Dip the aubergine slices in the egg white, flip them in bread crumbs, put them on an oiled tin foil on an oven tin and bake for 15 minutes (200 centigrade) on one side, flip and bake for another 15 minutes. Done.

These slices are now brown and crunchy and would as they are right now make an excellent side dish on their own, especially to any lamb dishes. For our purpose right now, they are our second key ingredient to our moussaka.

3. Béchamel sauce

When the béchamel sauce has cooled, pour in the 6 egg yolks and give it a quick stir.
Spice with salt, black pepper and a dash of nutmeg if you like.

Plain old normal white sauce with butter, wheat flour and milk. For one big tin, aim at 1 liter. When this has cooled, pour in the 6 egg yolks and give it a quick stir, tempering the mixture. Spice with salt, black pepper and a dash of nutmeg if you like.

4. Putting the whole thing together.

Use an oven tin with high sides, about 35×35 cm and about 10 cm high. Butter. 1. Pour in the meat sauce. 2. Place the baked eggplant slices in one layer over the meat sauce. 3. Pour about ½ liter of grated cheese – of which some can be Parmeggiano over the eggplant slices. 4. Pour the béchamel sauce over the whole thing. Pretty much done.

Prepare about ½ liter of grated cheese – of which some can be Parmeggiano – to pour over the eggplant slices.

Place the baked eggplant slices in one layer over the meat sauce.

Immediately before baking. Pour the béchamel sauce over the whole thing.

Bake for about 1 hour or until the crust is a nice golden brown, in about 175 centigrade.

I’d serve this with a crisp salad and some fresh basil leaves on top when done. Its very filling so there is not much need for any extra side dishes.

A hearty red wine works fine, as does a cold beer.

Just recently I served this dish with a shot of anise flavored Ouzo as an appetizer, and as far as I can tell it was much appreciated.

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