Moussaka




Here is the moussaka recipe as promised. I didn’t get a chance to send it out last night. Trace and I got involved in a Stargate:Universe marathon on our DVR. The show is ending (series finale tonight) just when it is finally getting good! Isn’t that always the case? So, yes, I got side tracked with preparing dinner and the show and everything else that goes on in a hectic household.


I can’t even tell you where my moussaka recipe comes from or where I even tried moussaka for the first time. I have been thinking on this and the only thing I can think of is, of all places, Gulf Air! We would often fly Gulf Air from London to Karachi and they had the BEST food. I loved Gulf Air. The flight was a very long flight and boring. You were surrounded by dozens of smelly strangers all with questionable hygiene practices. The only thing that made the trip bearable was the thought of seeing my nephews and the wonderful food Gulf Air provided. Thirty minutes after take off, they would start with a snack and then every couple of hours or so, they would come around with something! I loved it and it sure made the trip go by much faster!


I am quite sure, it is on one of these flights that I experienced my first moussaka! After trying this, I, of course, researched a recipe and had my mum make some. Since then though, I have tried various versions and the one I have been making for years now has just become my version. I can’t even remember what recipe I used originally, but I do know that it has changed over the years and this is my recipe now. It is a favourite of my eldest sister and I always make sure to make it when she visits and apparently, my brother Ali seems to enjoy it too since he has requested this recipe. Well, he’ll be eating this very one when he is here in a few weeks!


Traditionally, moussaka is made with lamb and usually does not have potatoes. I use minced beef in mine but you could use minced lamb, goat or even chicken. I had made one recipe that had a fried potato layer and I loved the combination of the meat, eggplant and potato with the creamy bechamel sauce. The addition of the potatoes also makes the dish more substantial and you only need a nice green salad as an accompaniment. I kept the potato layer but I didn’t care for the fried potatoes. They made the overall dish too greasy and I didn’t like the pool of oil left behind from fried potatoes and fried eggplant. I like to bake my potatoes or parboil them instead. It makes very little difference in the flavour of the dish but sure cuts down on the oily mess on the stove and your plate! I, also, don’t fry my eggplant. I will brush olive oil on the eggplant slices and broil them or throw them on the grill. I use a griddle at home and it’s easy, mess free and healthier than frying.


Though it might not be considered moussaka without the meat, you could probably make a vegetarian version by replacing the meat with chickpeas, beans or lentils (or even TVP-textured vegetable protein.) The dish can become gluten free if you make the white sauce with cornstarch.


I made my moussaka to freeze so we can enjoy it later. I freeze it unbaked and when you are ready to enjoy it, thaw the dish overnight in the fridge and then bake covered at 350 deg F/170 deg C for 45 minutes to an hour, remove the foil for the last 20 minutes. To brown the top, you can broil for a few minutes or raise the temperature for the last 15 minutes. Sometimes, the dish will release a lot of liquid, in that case, just raise the temp to 400 deg F and bake for another 15 minutes, till it’s hot and bubbly and golden brown on top. The batch I made yesterday makes a good 8-10 servings. Use a deep 9′ by 13″(23cm by 33cm) tin, a lasagne pan works great. 

MOUSSAKA

2lbs/1kg mince beef or lamb
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 14.5oz/411g tin diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2lbs/907g eggplants (2 large eggplants) sliced thinly
3 large potatoes, parboiled or baked and sliced
4 cups/945ml bechamel sauce
olive oil, to cook meat, brush eggplants and grease dish
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese

Bechamel Sauce:
4 cups milk
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons plain flour
nutmeg
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F/ 180 deg C
The procedure is pretty straightforward once you get everything grilled, 
sliced and cooked. 
Make the meat sauce. 
In a fry pan on medium heat, add a couple of tablespoons olive oil and add the onions. They don’t need to be brown, just softened. 
Add the garlic till fragrant and then add the meat.
Cook till the meat loses it’s pink colour and then add the
tin of tomatoes,juice and all. Add the cinnamon and allspice.
Cook uncovered till the liquid has evaporated.
Check for salt and pepper.
The meat mixture needs to be nice and thick with not too much liquid.


Once the meat is cooked, put aside to cool and prepare the eggplant.
Brush the eggplant slices and either broil them or bake them at
400 deg F/190 deg C until golden brown.
Alternatively, grill them outside or inside on a griddle (the easiest way)


Have your potatoes baked and sliced or parboil the slices and drain well.
I had a couple of sweet potatoes knocking around my pantry so I added them too.


Make the bechamel/white sauce.
In a medium pot, melt the butter on medium heat and add the flour.
Cook the flour for a little bit to get that raw flavour out.
Then add the milk, little at a time, whisking constantly to ensure there are no lumps. Once the sauce is bubbling and thick, it is done.
Add a few gratings (1 teaspoon) of nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
Now it’s time to layer.
In your baking tin or dish, add a couple teaspoons olive oil and
spread around to grease.
Add the baked potatoes to the bottom of the tin in an even layer.


Top the potatoes with the meat mixture, spreading evenly.


Layer the grilled eggplant slices evenly over the meat.


Put a sprinkle of mozzarella over the eggplant, as much or as little as you like. 



You can even omit this step, but my family LOVES cheese.

After the cheese, cover the whole dish with the bechamel sauce. 


Cover completely and shake the dish to get even coverage.
Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top and more mozzarella if you like.
Bake in the oven for 35/45 minutes or until the top is brown and the sides
are bubbling.
(Note: since I didn’t bake my moussaka, the pictures don’t show a beautiful golden top.)

Enjoy with a green salad and crusty bread.

I hope you enjoy my moussaka inspired by an air plane ride!
My posts might be a bit erratic over the next few weeks but please bear with me. It’s coming down to the end of the school year and so many functions to attend and plan. Laith will be turning a ripe old age of 6 in a couple of weeks. He is having a Green Lantern party next Sunday with a few of his buddies from school. I think we will be grilling hamburgers and hot dogs with a Green Lantern cake. I think that’s a safe bet for a bunch of picky 5/6 year olds.

My children get out of school in a couple of weeks and as much as I am looking forward to sleeping in a bit, I am secretly dreading it too! Four kids at home for two months! Thank goodness my brother will be here for a week to help me. They are really looking forward to his visit. 

I hope you have a great week ahead and a great start to your summer.