Moussaka

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Moussaka is a casserole made by layering eggplant with a spiced meat filling then topping it off with a creamy bechamel sauce that is baked to golden perfection. It is perhaps the most widely recognized of all Greek dishes. Until the early 1900s, moussaka was a more simple dish, using just vegetables and meats. The addition of béchamel sauce is attributed to Nikos Tselementes, a Greek chef who trained in France, and this newer version quickly became a favorite in Greece.This eggplant version is the traditional rendition, however you can also layer in potatoes, zucchini, or whatever vegetables you prefer. It’s hearty and filling so you won’t need many side dishes.

Ingredients:

150-175 ml  olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

900 g lean minced lamb

50 ml white wine (a generous splash)

1 x 400 g  can chopped tomatoes

1 x 5 cm piece cinnamon stick

handful fresh oregano leaves, preferably wild Greek oregano, chopped

3 large aubergines

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:

75 g  butter

75 g plain flour

600ml/1 pint milk

50 g parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 medium free-range eggs, beaten

moussaka

Preparation:

Preheat the oven at 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

For the lamb sauce, heat two teaspoons of the oil in a pan. Add the onions and garlic and fry until just beginning to brown. Add the minced lamb and fry over a high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the wine, tomatoes, cinnamon and oregano and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes while you make everything else.

Slice the stalks off the aubergines and cut them lengthways into 5mm/¼in slices. Heat a frying pan until it is jumping hot, add one tablespoon of the oil and a layer of aubergine slices and fry quickly until tender and lightly coloured on each side. Lift out with tongs, layer over the base of a 2.5-2.75 litre/4 ½-5 pint shallow ovenproof dish and season lightly with a little salt and pepper. Repeat with the rest of oil and aubergines and seasoning each layer as you go.

For the topping, melt the butter in a non-stick pan, add the flour and cook over a medium heat for one minute to cook out the flour. Gradually beat in the milk, bring to the boil, stirring, and leave to simmer very gently for 10 minutes, giving it a stir every now and then. Stir in the cheese and some salt and pepper to taste. Cool slightly and then beat in the eggs.

Remove the cinnamon stick from the lamb sauce, season to taste with some salt and pepper and spoon it over the top of the aubergines. Pour over the topping and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden-brown and bubbling.