One of the things I really love about ordering seasonal veggie boxes is it forces me to be creative, try different things and not just auto fall back on my little list of family favourites (for more on how I menu plan, check out my 3 free apps for meal planning post). That’s how I ended up at moussaka – we got aubergines / egg plant / brinjal (whatever you wonna call it) in our box. This is a Greek-inspired labour of love, layers of meat sauce and aubergine, all topped off with golden cheesey delicious-ness.
I hadn’t actually had moussaka since I went to Greece ten years ago… A group of us met up the night after our tour had ended for dinner in Athens. We went to a vibey looking place on a main drag… and sadly the food was terrible. The company was great, ambiance and vibe lots of fun, but the moussaka was still frozen in the middle *not ideal*. Anyway, I figured it was finally time to move on and have a go and making it for myself.
I wouldn’t claim for this to be the most authentic moussaka in the world, I spent waaay too much time going back and forth – have a potato layer, leave it out – ended up leaving it out, I didn’t think it needed it.
After the potato debate, next up was: to salt or not to salt? Is it necessary to salt (then pat dry and rinse) the aubergines? I had always understood that you needed to do this to prevent a bitter taste and minimise absorption of oil. Some light googling revealed that it seems the bitterness has been largely bred out of aubergines and the absorption of oil is mainly a factor if you’re planning to fry them. This is already a relatively labour intensive recipe and the aubergines are grilled, not fried, so decided to forgo the extra step.
- 3 medium-sized aubergines, thinly sliced (I used a mandoline set to 4.5mm)
- olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 500 g lean beef mince
- 1 x (400g) tin tomato puree
- ½ cup beef stock (add up to another ½ cup if sauce dries too much while simmering)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon oreganum
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 25 g butter
- 50 ml flour
- 1 cups milk
- ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
- a pinch nutmeg
- ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
- salt & pepper, to season
Aubergines: Place the aubergine slices in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray. Brush or spray the slices with olive oil and season with salt. Roast in preheated oven 15-20 minutes or until the eggplant is soft and beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Meat Sauce: In a large saucepan heat the oil and saute onion and garlic until soft. Add the mince and cook until browned. Add tomato puree and stock. Season with cinnamon, nutmeg, oreganum and sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Cheese Sauce: Melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan. Add the flour and whisk to form a roux. Add milk and stir continuously until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in grated cheese and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Assemble: In a casserole dish layer half the aubergine, half the mince, the other half of the aubergine, the rest of the mince and top with white sauce and grated cheese. Bake at 180°C 4- - 45 minutes or until golden.