Moussaka is the most delicious thing you’ll ever eat, if you love lamb and eggplant. It’s rich, creamy and perfect if you want a good dose of comfort food.
For years, moussaka was something I was only able to dream about. It was eaten if it happened to be on the menu of an infrequently visited restaurant. Indeed, I can probably count on one hand the number of times that occurred over the past fifteen years. We didn’t eat it at home. It was the eggplant (aubergine) you see. They all thought they didn’t like it. It was ugly: on the outside it was a nasty dark purple colour; and on the inside, a pale, insipid creamy colour. How could it possibly taste any good?
What they didn’t see, and wouldn’t try, was the creamy lusciousness it turned into when it was cooked. I managed to sneak it in to the ever popular Lamb with eggplant and chickpeas, – they were totally unaware of the addition. It sort of disappeared in the mix, which meant they all ate it. But eggplant for eggplant’s sake just wasn’t a winner in the early years.
Slowly it was integrated into the vegetarian pizza topping that we regularly made. A few slices of fried eggplant, topped with all the other things, became acceptable. And with these baby steps of integration came the full acceptance of eggplant as a thing you’d actually want to eat.
And so it finally dawned on me, as I was flipping through the May 2016 edition of Jamie Magazine, that moussaka was now an option. This version is everything I’d remembered and more, and most importantly, was loved by all. Enjoy!
- 2 large eggplants (aubergines) sliced into 1cm rounds
- olive oil
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 500g lamb mince
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 125ml stock
- 400 g tin tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 50 g plain flour
- 400 ml low fat milk
- 75g feta cheese
- 50 g pecorino, grated
- 2 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
- Lay the sliced eggplant over two large baking trays, brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of oregano and a pinch of salt. Place in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, turning halfway, until soft and golden.
- Meanwhile, place the red onion in a saucepan with a splash of olive oil on a medium heat. Soften for 10 minutes, adding the garlic for the last 2 minutes. Add the cinnamon and remaining oregano and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the lamb and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until golden brown - about 5 minutes. Use kitchen paper to soak up any excess fat from the mince, then stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the stock and let it reduce before adding the tomatoes, half a tin of water and the bay leaves, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Cook for 15 minutes or until thickened, then remove the bay leaves.
- Make a béchamel sauce by placing the butter in a saucepan over a low heat until melted, then tip in the flour, stir and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, until you have a paste. Slowly pour in the milk and whisk for 5 minutes until thick. Crumble in half of both the feta and the pecorino and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly.
- Turn the oven down to 190 degrees celsius.
- Arrange a layer of the eggplant in the bottom of a 20cm x 20cm baking dish and top with a third of the lamb mixture. Repeat twice more, finishing with a layer of meat.
- Whisk the eggs into the cooled béchamel and pour over the top of the final layer of meat. Crumble over the remaining feta and pecorino, drizzle with olive oil and place in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until golden and bubbling.