Moussaka is one of those dishes about which everyone has a story, a variation, and an opinion – meat being the main culprit. People think that the meat in most of our dishes is lamb, but in my family (and for a lot of other Greeks and Cypriots) the meat in moussaka is pork. Veal was used, too, but less so now. As a result, when I make moussaka I use a mixture of beef and pork, but I’ve left the option open here. Some people love lamb – it’s up to you. Also, I’ve always made my moussaka with baked vegetables. My yiayias used to make it the traditional way, frying the slices of aubergine, potato and courgette; however, as times changed, fried foods became rarer. (Aubergines really are little sponges and will guzzle all the oil you give them.) And now we mostly bake or grill them. Still delicious, I promise you.
Serves 6 – 8
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
500g mince (see intro)
2 tablespoons tomato purée
200ml red wine
1 bay leaf
1 stick of cinnamon
1.25 litre milk
100g unsalted butter
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
80g kefalotyri or pecorino,
Nutmeg, for grating (*note, we used a lot here -- about 1/5 or a nutmeg)
Preheat your oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Peel the potatoes. Slice some of the aubergine skin off in strips (see page 13). Slice them both into ½cm rounds. Lay them all out on a couple of baking or roasting trays and brush with olive oil. Season and roast in the oven for 35–40 minutes, untilgolden. Remove and set aside. Trim and finely slice the courgettes and keep to one side.
Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the onions and garlic. Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a large saucepan over a medium-low heat. Sauté the onions and garlic for 10 minutes, until starting to soften. Add the ground cinnamon, oregano and all the mince. Break everything up with a wooden spoon and turn the heat up a little. Fry until any liquid evaporates and it starts to turn lightly brown. Stir in the purée, then add the wine and bring to the boil. Leave to rapidly simmer for 5 minutes, until the wine has reduced by more than half, then stir in the passata, bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Season generously, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook on a low heat for 30 minutes, until thickened and reduced.
Heat the milk in a small pan. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat and stir in the flour and baking powder. Once they have made a paste, slowly start to whisk in the warmed milk, until you have a smooth white sauce. Leave it to thicken over a low heat until it coats the back of a spoon. Grate in half the cheese and a generous amount of nutmeg. Season to taste.
When the meat and white sauces are ready, layer up the moussaka. You’ll need a large roasting tray, about 25cm×30cm in size. Layer a third of the baked veg and courgettes in the base of the tray and spoon over half of the mince. Repeat with half the remaining veg, the rest of the mince and then the last of the vegetables. Whisk the eggs into the white sauce and pour over the moussaka. Grate over the remaining cheese and place the dish in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and bubbling and everything is cooked through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving, if not longer.