Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Inauthentic moussaka

Elements of this recipe (for 4) repeat my earlier recipe for moussaka. But this one is even less authentic. Moussaka should contain lamb, I believe; and I don't suppose that Greek cooks add Worcester sauce to it, or use Cheddar in their bechamels. I included potatoes - waxy ones would have worked better than the maincrop ones I used - because I didn't have enough aubergine. 

Since writing the earlier entry, I've discovered a new favourite method of stewing mince.

2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Olive oil
200g pork mince
200g beef mince
1 bay leaf
Chicken stock
1/2 chicken stock cube
1tbsp tomato puree
Few splashes Worcester sauce
1 large aubergine, cut into rounds the thickness of 2 £1 coins
3 medium potatoes, cut into rounds the thickness of 2 £1 coins
3dstsp plain flour
35g butter, or enough to make a roux with the flour
300ml milk
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp Cheddar

A few scrapings of nutmeg

Over a gentle heat and in a heavy-bottomed pan, soften the onions and garlic with a little salt in a tbsp or two of olive oil. After about five minutes, add the mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it starts to cook. Continue to cook the contents of the pan gently, stirring from time to time. After about 25 minutes, and once the liquid from the meat has evaporated, the mince will start to brown. (I used to worry that the onions would burn before the mince browned - but for some reason they do not.) When it is browned, add about 100ml of chicken stock, or just enough to produce a stew that is moist but not runny. Stir in the stock cube (which is not necessary, but does add extra savouriness), puree, and the Worcester sauce if you like, and add the bay leaf. Allow to bubble for a few minutes. Test the seasoning - the cube and the Worcester sauce are salty, and you may not need more salt.

Meanwhile, pour some olive oil into a saucer. Dip in a fork, and brush the aubergine rounds with the back of it. Place them in a roasting tin or on a baking sheet. Season with salt, and with pepper if you like. Bake at gas mark 6/200C for 20 to 30 minutes, until soft. (This is a far easier method of cooking aubergines than frying.)

Put the potatoes into lightly salted cold water, bring to the boil, and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Drain.

Make a thick bechamel. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the flour, and stir it in. The roux should have the consistency of wet sand. Cook it for a minute. Pour in the milk gradually, stirring to incorporate each portion before adding the next. Let the sauce bubble for a minute or two, stirring constantly, then turn off the heat. You want a thick, almost pasty consistency. When the sauce has cooled a little, stir in the egg. (After baking, the sauce should puff up.) You could season the bechamel with nutmeg as well as salt.

Assemble the "moussaka". I spread a little of the bechamel on the bottom and sides of the oven dish. Then I built up the layers: potato; stew; potatoes and aubergines; stew; aubergines; bechamel.

Bake in a gas mark 6/200C oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is brown and everything is bubbling.

Moussaka is particularly delicious warm, rather than piping hot. We ate ours after it had been sitting in the turned-off oven for 45 minutes.


Milnrowmart said...

Cheddar dissolved in Bechamel or grated on the top?

Nicholas Clee said...

Sorry - not clear. I stirred my cheese into the sauce. But you could do both.