Moussaka is a Greek dish of usually minced lamb, aubergine, potatoes and creamy sauce that is baked in layers like a lasagne. I think of this as Greek lasagne and it is every bit as good as that sounds.
I almost always use minced beef here as it is a dish I cook for a crowd and not everyone seems to be keen on minced lamb. Whichever meat you decide to use know that this will be delicious. It’s a great make-ahead meal once put together you can allow to cool then store covered in the fridge and give it the final cooking in a hot oven for a little longer until piping hot within.
The aubergine is usually fried in quite a bit of oil as they are like sponges and it seems no matter how much oil they get they will drink this up and require more it is for this reason I use a non-stick pan and coat in very little oil. You can and sometimes I need to add a little more oil between batches. Aubergines are almost always salted to draw out moisture and make them less bitter. I have never found this step necessary. However, I do salt here only because I want to draw out a little of the moisture in them. It is about the only thing that can ruin this dish is having too much moisture and it being a horrible runny mess although, it will taste just fine.
The bechamel sauce needs to be thicker than normal and also contain egg yolks which make it set like a savoury custard. You shouldn’t require any seasoning as the parmesan should add enough. I love breaking through the very thin cheesy crust that forms on the top of this, it brings me great pleasure like cracking through a crème Brulee.
I serve this alongside some roasted baby potatoes which I scatter with crumbled feta and thyme/oregano when they have come out of the oven and a simple green salad.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Slice the potatoes and aubergines into thins disc, I leave the peel on the potatoes but you can remove if you like.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy-based non-stick pan and cook the potatoes, in a single layer until bronzed. This step will need to be done in at least two batches. Then transfer to a roasting tin or ovenproof dish. In a single slightly overlapping layer. Season the potatoes with a little thyme and sea salt.
Repeat with the aubergine until you have a golden layer of both potatoes and aubergine in the bottom of your pan. Then transfer to the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, whilst potatoes and aubergine are in the oven add the oil onion and garlic to a saucepan over a low heat cook for a few minutes until the onion begins to become translucent. Transfer to a bowl.
Turn heat up to high under the saucepan you cooked the onion in and add the minced beef/lamb using a wooden spoon break up roughly. Allow to brown before turning it around in the pan to brown the other side.
When the meat has browned. Return the onion to the pan and add red wine allow to this to bubble away for a couple of minutes before adding canned tomatoes,beef stock, oregano, bay leaves and ground cinnamon. When sauce begins to bubble, turn heat to low and let it simmer for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
Whilst the meat layer is cooking prepare the béchamel top layer. Melt the butter over a medium heat, then tip in the flour and stir constantly until it becomes crumbly in appearance. Remove from the heat while you whisk in the milk. Begin to add the milk 30ml at a time whisking between each addition until it has been incorporated. Once halfway through and it begins to look more liquid than solid you add more at a time. When all milk is added and you have thick creamy sauce turn off heat and stir in half the parmesan. Then set aside until required
At this point the vegetable layer in the oven and meat layer should both be ready. Turn meat sauce off and remove the bay leaves. Whisk the egg yolks into the
béchamel sauce, then add one third of this to the meat sauce to thicken and bind it. Taste and season accordingly.
Retrieve the vegetable layer from the oven. Spread the meat layer over and pour the remaining bechamel sauce on top. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and pop back into the oven for a further 30 minutes until the top has blistered and bronzed on top.
Allow to rest for 30 minutes after removing from the oven to allow to set correctly.