MOUSSAKA is a wonderful one pot dish for this time of year. It is an Aubergine casserole covered with a thick layer of bechamel sauce that becomes golden and crusty.
Greeks believe that 'Moussaka' was introduced when the Arabs brought the aubergine (egg plant) to Greece although Arabs especially in the Lebanon on think it of it as a Greek dish.
Moussaka is also found in Turkey were it is sautéed and served as casserole style, warm or at room temperature. In Arabic countries it is eaten cold. In the Balkans it is typically served hot.
The Arabic meaning of Moussaka is 'Musaqqa's' it means chilled. In Eastern European countries they use potatoes rather than aubergine, pork and beef mince and yoghurt mixed with raw egg which makes the top layer into custard, in the layers they use tomatoes and crushed cheese (feta).
In the 1920s Greek version which is the most well known is
Aubergine, meat tomatoes and béchamel in three layers, aubergines are griddled to give a smoky flavour. A tomato sauce cooked with meat and then the béchamel custard.
The Italian Caponata is a version of moussaka and also melanzane which is aubergine and tomatoes and layered with buffalo mozzarella.
Iraq serve a version called 'Tepsi baytinijan' which is meatballs aubergines and tomatoes.
But this is my my version for 4-6 people.
2 large aubergines or 4 large potatoes or mix the two
10mls olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
400g minced lamb or (any mince you prefer)
1 tin of good quality tomatoes
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
75mls white wine.
For the béchamel
½ litre of cream or milk or mix
2 free range eggs
salt and pepper
a little freshly grated nutmeg
1. Fry the onion and garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil, add the mince meat and fry for 5 minute. Add the tomatoes herbs and cinnamon salt and pepper and cook on a low heat for an hour.
2. whist the meat is cooking slice the aubergine into 1 ½ centimetre slices, brush with olive oil season and griddle on both sides.
3. To make the béchamel melt the butter in the pan add flour and gradually add the milk, cream , bay leaf and bring to the boil gently simmer to cook out the flour season with nutmeg salt and pepper and allow to cool and then whisk in the beaten eggs.
4. To assemble grease an oven proof dish lay the aubergines or (potatoes) the meat mixture and then the custard in layers repeat finishing with the custard. Cook in the oven 400f/200c/ gas mark 6 for 40 minutes, until brown and crusty on top.
I serve it with a Greek salad and a glass of Tempranillo, or Shiraz.