Moussaka was always one of mine and my Mum’s favourite dishes when we were in Cyprus, but it’s admittedly a bit of a hassle to make. Some of the local restaurants we went to used to ask you to order it in advance, so they could get it ready, as they would only serve fresh food.
I don’t mind making it myself when I have the time, so I thought that I’d try giving it a go over Easter using both lamb mince and leftover lamb from our roast on Good Friday.
I’ve used bits and bobs from different recipes over the years, but this is what I tend to stick to:
2 aubergines cut into 1cm/½in slices
3 fairly large potatoes, cut into 1cm/½in slices
500g lamb mince
500g sliced lamb pieces (as mentioned earlier, taken from our previous roast leg of lamb)
1 onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 tsp fresh oregano
1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cinnamon (I sometimes increase this, as I love the flavour)
200ml/7fl oz red wine
1 x 400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
7 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Now I’m naughty and I usually cheat with the cheese sauce. There’s already so much going on and in the past, I’ve found a shop bought sauce to do the job perfectly – I usually use Dolmio white lasagne sauce. But if you do want to make it from scratch, here’s one I found on the BBC Good Food website:
For the white sauce
50g/2oz plain flour
400ml/14fl oz milk
1 tsp finely grated nutmeg
25g/1oz finely grated parmesan
1 free-range egg, beaten
- Put the lamb mince and sliced lamb, onions, garlic, oregano, mint, cumin and cinnamon in a large heavy-based frying pan and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the meat.
- Slice up the aubergine into pieces and place in a colander and sprinkle with salt (do this for two reasons: aubergines sometimes contain bitter juices which can be released and removed by salting. Also, salted aubergines soak up less oil. So when you cook them, your olive oil doesn’t disappear in seconds, and though the aubergine is still rich and velvety, it isn¹t sodden with oil). Set aside for 10 minutes.
- Add the wine, tomatoes, tomato purée and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the lamb is tender and the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Rinse the aubergine pieces under cold running water and pat dry in a clean tea towel. Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-based frying pan and fry the aubergines for 2-3 minutes on each side, adding more oil when necessary. Remove from the pan and set aside to drain on kitchen paper.
- Cook the potatoes in boiling water for five minutes, then drain in a colander under running water until cold.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160C (fan)/Gas 4.
- For the white sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook for a few seconds, then gradually stir in the milk. Add half the parmesan and the grated nutmeg. Simmer the sauce gently for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and quickly stir in the beaten egg. Cover the surface of the sauce with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.
- Spoon one third of the meat sauce into a large, shallow ovenproof dish. Cover with a layer of potatoes and a layer of aubergines. Repeat the layers twice more, finishing with the aubergines. Pour over the white sauce, making sure it covers in a thick, even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until deep golden-brown and bubbling.
Give it a go – it’s a lot of effort, but the final result is so worth it! Adding the extra pieces of sliced lamb made it extra meaty, and even more yummy, although it’s perfectly delicious when it’s made just with mince.