Moussaka is sometimes referred to as the Greek version of lasagne, with fried eggplant slices replacing the pasta. It’s similar to lasagne in that there’s a ragu of minced meat which is topped with a béchamel sauce before being baked but it has a very different flavour profile due to the ragu being made with minced lamb and spiked with cinnamon and allspice. This version is slightly different again as the minced lamb is replaced with shredded lamb shoulder. It’s a delicious alternative and one that my family preferred to minced lamb. The other similarity to lasagne is that both dishes are a labour of love. It’s time consuming to make and not something you can throw together after work but perfect for a rainy Sunday when you feel like some time in the kitchen. I tackle these sort of dishes by preparing it over a number of days. Making the ragu one day, then frying the eggplants the next day and finally making the béchamel and assembling and baking on the third day. Moussaka is quite rich and the quantities below fed four of us twice and it was even better reheated the second time. I served it with a greek salad full of olives and feta with a lemon and oregano dressing.
ingredients – Serves 8 Adapted from Feast Magazine
1.5 kg lamb shoulder, off the bone , trimmed of fat and cut into large 10cm chunks,seasoned with salt & pepper
2 onions, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 rosemary sprig
1 cinnamon quill
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ cup red wine
800g can chopped tomatoes
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1.5 kg eggplant, cut into 5mm slices
½ cup plain flour
2 cups milk
100g freshly grated parmesan
2 egg yolks
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Cook lamb in batches for a couple of minutes on each side until browned. Transfer to a bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pan. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook for a further minute. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 minutes or until combined. Add herbs, spices, wine, 1 teaspoon salt and tomatoes and bring to the boil. Return lamb to the pan and cover with a tight fitting lid. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1½ hours. Uncover and cook for a further hour or until the lamb is very tender and sauce has reduced. Using two forks shred the lamb and remove the cinnamon stick, bay leaf and rosemary sprig. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Meanwhile, soak the eggplant in water for 1 hour. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Heat some olive oil in a large non stick frypan and cook the eggplant in batches until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining eggplant, adding more oil as required. Preheat oven to 220C. To make béchamel, melt butter in a pan. Add flour and stir for 2 minutes. Add milk, whisking continuously for 3 minutes or until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat, add cheese and stir until melted. Stir in egg yolks and nutmeg.
In a large oven proof baking dish, I used a lasagne dish, Place one third of the eggplant over the base in a single layer. Top with half the lamb. Add half the reminding eggplant, then the remaining lamb. Top with remaining eggplant and spread over béchamel. bake moussaka for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.