Calories per portion: Don’t ask
Time: 2 hours plus 45-60 min oven time
Serve with salad
2lbs minced beef
2-3 large potatoes
Salt / Pepper
For the bechamel sauce:
2-3 pints milk
70 gr butter
50 gr parmesan
Egg yolk (optional)
For the tomato sauce:
2 tins chopped tomatoes, or passata
Large glass of white wine
1 bay leaf.
Before you start
This has got to be one of my favourite Greek dishes. Every time it cooks, the distinctive smell fills the house and reminds me of walking into my mum’s kitchen every ten minutes, asking whether dinner is ready yet.
Now, I grow most of the ingredients myself every summer. The aubergines, the potatoes and even tomatoes to make my own passata and for the record, I can taste a difference.
I’ve decided to publish my mum’s recipe for it here, adapted only slightly, since I’ve seen this recipe really cannibalised over the years. So I hope to put the record straight as to the authentic way of making it.
Please, do not use ready made bolognaise sauce from a jar. Moussaka does not contain bolognaise sauce, nor does it contain garlic. And yes it really takes a couple of hours to prepare but I normally fry the aubergines and potatoes the day before – two hours is a long time to find in one day. Rest assured, it’s worth it.
And if you are going into the trouble of making it, why not make two at the same time? It won’t take you that much longer and it will freeze well for cooking another day.
Preps and Frying
Start with the aubergines. Slice them lengthways, aiming for 0.5-1cm thick slices. Place slices in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and cover with water. I put a plate over them to make sure they stay immersed in water and leave to soak for 20 minutes.
Next, peel and slice the potatoes. Again, you need to slice them lengthways and in the same thickness as the aubergine slices. Use kitchen roll to pat dry and sprinkle with salt.
Get a large frying pan and pour olive oil, enough that the base in completely covered. Get it hot and start frying the potatoes, until they are cooked through and golden. Make sure you don’t burn them. I like to absorb some of the oil by putting them on kitchen roll while cooling.
Once your potato slices are fried, move on to the aubergines and do the same thing. It’s really important to also pat them dry before you fry them. You’ll need quite a lot of olive oil, as the aubergines will absorb it as they cook – so be prepared to keep adding it in. Place them on kitchen roll to absorb the oil.
Chop the onion finely and fry on a low heat for around 20 minutes, or until you are absolutely certain the onion is soft and cooked thoroughly. The whole beauty of this sauce is that it is meant to melt in your mouth, and this takes patience. Crunchy onions are a massive no, no and will distract from all the flavours fusing together.
Next, turn up the heat and brown the minced beef. Season well with salt and pepper. Get the pan really hot, and when all the beef is brown all over, pour in the white wine and cook for a further minute.
Pour in your chopped tomatoes or passata, add the bay leaf and a small pinch of cinnamon and mix well.
Turn down the heat and let it simmer on a very low heat for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally. Check the seasoning after 10 minutes.
While your tomato sauce is simmering, start on the bechamel. Make sure you’ve got all your ingredients around you because you will not have time to grab more milk or the flour.
Mix the butter and flour into a roux sauce and heat for a couple of minutes. Add a little milk and whisk continuously. As the sauce thickens, add more milk. Did I say stir continuously? Make sure you do, or you’ll get lumpy floury sauce and if this happens you’ll have to start it all over again.
If you find you’ve added too much milk and the sauce won’t thicken, just add a little more flour.
When the sauce is ready, season with salt and take off the heat. Add the egg yolk for colour and the parmesan and mix well.
Once everything is ready, take a large lasagne ovenproof dish.
The potato slices go down first, as in the picture.
Pour over a layer of the beef in tomato sauce to cover, then layer the aubergines.
Pour over the last layer of beef in tomato sauce and then spoon over the bechamel.
Mix the breadcrumbs with the parmesan and sprinkle to cover.
Bake in a preheated oven (180c) for 45 to 60 minutes or until the bechamel has turned light golden brown. Leave to stand for 15 minutes before cutting.
Good luck, and let me know how you get on!