Today I’m sharing my family recipe for the king of Greek dishes: Moussaka. This meal requires some preparation hours in advance but everything is easy to do. As long as you can spare the time, even a novice cook can do this. This recipe serves 4-5 people.
400 gr minced meat (beef, or a mixture of beef and pork)
1 large red onion (chopped)
1 garlic clove (chopped)
4 eggplants (aubergines)
Extra virgin olive oil for the tomato sauce
Olive oil or sunflower oil for frying
About 160 gr of tomato puree (passata) – i.e. 1/3 of a carton
1 medium beef tomato skinned and chopped
Splash of wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
For the bechamel sauce:
500 ml milk
2 tablespoons of butter
4 heaped tablespoons of all-purpose flour
Sprinkle of dry breadcrumbs
First, we prepare the eggplants, hours in advance:
I fry the eggplants from the previous evening, then leave them in a strainer in the fridge overnight. The refrigeration helps to drain the oil from the eggplants perfectly for a healthier meal.
But! Before frying the eggplants, we need to get rid of their bitter taste first! How to do that: Wash the eggplants, cut them in half, then in slices. Place them in a big bowl of tap water with A LOT of salt. Leave for half an hour, then drain and dry them with a towel. Note the water was black… that’s the bitterness saying bye-bye!
Shallow fry the eggplants in olive oil or sunflower oil in medium heat from both sides. When golden, remove them from the pan.
Put them in a strainer upright and in layers, starting from the walls and leaving the middle empty. See these two pictures:
As you can see, I place kitchen paper underneath and put the strainer in a bowl. Trust me, this is necessary. When you remove the bowl from the fridge the next day, there will be a pool of oil at the bottom.
To cook the moussaka, we can start from the mince sauce or the potatoes. Either way is fine. You can even fry the potatoes from the previous evening, if you prefer, so you do all the frying in one go. I prefer to fry them when I make the sauce so I put them in the meal fresh, but it’s up to you.
To fry the potatoes:
Skin the potatoes, wash, and cut in half, then in slices. Dry them with a towel, shallow fry the pieces in olive oil or sunflower oil in medium heat from both sides. When golden, remove them from the pan. Place on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
To make the tomato and mince sauce:
Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil (whatever amount you’d use for a tomato sauce for pasta – say, about 8 tablespoons).
After a few seconds, add the mince. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir and pat the mince so that it all changes color as it cooks in the oil. After 1-2 minutes, add a splash of wine vinegar and stir some more. Add a little warm water, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and pepper. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Turn up the heat, add the tomato chunks, puree, salt, sugar. Stir, bring to boil. Cover and simmer for another 20 minutes. If the sauce isn’t thick after that, cook without the lid until it thickens.
To make the bechamel sauce:
Warm up the milk in a pan and well before it boils, add butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and one tablespoon of flour at a time while stirring briskly with an egg whisker so the flour is mixed in well. Simmer without the lid and keep stirring with the whisker. When it thickens remove from heat. Wait 1 minute, stir in the egg briskly with the same whisker.
Take a medium-sized pyrex or ovenproof dish. Lay the potato pieces in the bottom. Leave no open spaces.
Lay half the eggplant slices on top of the potatoes. Again, leave no open spaces.
Spread the mince on top.
Next, lay the rest of the eggplant pieces on top, and finish off with the bechamel sauce.
Sprinkle dry breadcrumbs on top, 3-4 tiny knobs of butter, then do this:
Put your hands under the running tap, then shake your hands over the pan so droplets of cold water fall on the bechamel sauce. Do this 3-4 times. This will stop the food from rising in places so it all stays nicely flat. Old trick 😉
Place in a preheated oven and bake at 190 degrees Celsius for about 30-40 minutes or until golden.
Serve with green salad…and devour! Does this look mouthwatering or what?