This is a really lovely moussaka which rates as one of our “comfort” dishes. We especially like roasting the aubergines in the oven rather than frying them which always seems to require vats of oil. The combination is a classic and is not difficult, but it does take a little time to bring together. It is always well worth it.
Wine Suggestion: We’ve been inspired to drink wines from the Eastern Mediterranean with this and have found that top Lebanese wines, like Chateau Massaya, with their bramble and plum fruits plus velvety spices work very well indeed.
Moussaka – to serve 6
- 3 aubergines, sliced 1cm thick
- olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1½ lb (675g) lamb mince
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tomato, skinned, seeded and chopped
- 2-3 tbsp tomato purée
- a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- a few tbsp dry white wine
- Parmesan (optional)
FOR THE BÉCHAMEL
- 1 pint (600ml) full-cream milk
- 1 onion, peeled and stuck with a couple of cloves
- bay leaf
- 2oz (55g) unsalted butter
- 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.
Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides then put on a baking tray in a single layer and roast until soft. You will either need to do this in batches or on two trays. They should take between 10 and 20 minutes but don’t let them get too brown.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and sauté the onions until soft and golden. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for another few minutes, then add the mince and fry for 5-10 minutes or until well browned. Season and add the cinnamon, then add the chopped tomato purée and chopped parsley. Stir well, add the wine and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the wine has been absorbed.
While the meat is simmering make the béchamel. Put the onion, bay leaf and milk in a small pan and bring slowly to the boil. Take the pan off the heat and leave to infuse for 20-30 minutes with the lid on and reheat just before starting the sauce.
Melt the butter over a gentle heat in a small pan. Just as the butter starts to foam, add the flour and stir gently for a few seconds. You want a thin bubbling base – if the butter hasn’t amalgamated with the flour, add a tiny bit more. Bubble for a couple of minutes or until it turns a pale biscuit colour. Add about half a cup of the hot milk and whisk hard until the mixture becomes thick. Add more milk and repeat – it will take longer to thicken each time.
Cook the sauce more slowly and stir with a wooden spoon – add more milk until you get the right consistency. You want the sauce to be thick but not solid. Cook gently for 20 minutes, stirring often. Season and grate in a little nutmeg about half way through.
When the sauce is ready put alternate layers of aubergine and meat sauce in a deep baking dish or roasting tin, staring and ending with a layer of aubergines. Pour a thick layer of béchamel over the top; you might not need it all. Sprinkle over some grated Parmesan if you like then bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until brown on top.
(Original recipe from Tamasin’s Kitchen Bible by Tamasin Day-Lewis, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005.)