Many comfort foods such as lasagne, macaroni cheese and moussaka are off limits to those with gluten intolerances due to the bechamel sauce. However, Victoria shares how they can go back on the menu with two versions of creamy gluten free sauces.
Moussaka, as far as I’m concerned, just doesn’t cut the mustard without a delicious creamy béchamel layer beneath the cheese. The dish is fairly low in gluten already, but once you’ve mastered gluten free béchamel, you have the basis to make other dishes previously off-limits to the gluten-intolerant, such as chicken Mornay, cauliflower and macaroni cheese and lasagne (made with gluten free pasta, of course).
But let’s get back to the moussaka for now. Lamb mince in a rich, red wine and tomato sauce, spiked with oregano and cinnamon layered with sliced aubergine: this is comfort food at its best. Moussaka will bring a taste of Mediterranean sunshine to these grey British nights. Some crazy folks like to swap the aubergine for sliced potato (what’s that about?), but I’m all about the aubergines. Sometimes, they can end up being greasy or, worse still, squeaky and undercooked, but I combat this by brushing the aubergine slices with oil and seasoning before roasting in the oven first.
I like to brown off the lamb mince in a dry frying pan before draining off the fat to ensure the moussaka is as grease-free as possible. You don’t have to do this and I know, for some, this is tantamount to meat sacrilege, but that’s the way my mum does it and I have followed suit. You can skip this step if you want a fuller fat version.
I’m going to give you two recipes for béchamel, one made with a classic roux and a cheat’s version that can be zapped in the microwave.
Serves 4 (or 2 greedy people)
2 – 3 aubergines
1 large onion
6 cloves of garlic
500g lamb mince
1 cinnamon stick
A good handful of fresh oregano
A good squirt of tomato puree
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
A large glass of red wine (or thereabouts)
Salt and pepper
For a classic gluten-free béchamel
50g rice flour
1 pint of whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 small onion
A generous grating of fresh nutmeg
For the cheat’s white sauce
1 pint of milk
Salt and pepper
A suspicion of fresh nutmeg
50 – 75g freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/350°F/Gas Mark 4
Cut the aubergines lengthways into 1cm thick slices. Brush the slices on both sides with olive oil and place on baking sheets. Season with salt and pepper and roast until golden and tender.
Finely chop the onions and garlic and fry in a little olive oil in a large saucepan until soft. In the meantime, fry off the mince in a dry pan and use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat into the onions and discard the fat. Break the cinnamon stick and add it to the mince, along with the oregano (leaves picked off and stalks discarded). Season generously, stir in the tomato puree and slosh in the red wine and tinned tomatoes. Leave to simmer for at least 40 minutes, or until reduced.
In the meantime, make the béchamel. Place the milk in a saucepan over a gentle heat with the onion (peeled and cut in half), peppercorns, bay leaf and nutmeg. Once the milk scalds, turn off the heat and leave to infuse (you can skip this and just add salt, pepper and nutmeg later for a simpler version). Strain the milk into another, clean saucepan and heat again. Melt the butter in another saucepan and add the rice flour. Stir until all the roux thickens, but make sure it doesn’t catch. Add a ladle full of the infused hot milk and whisk until combined and thick and keep adding the milk in stages until you are left with a thick, lump-free sauce.
For the cheat’s version, simply stir a little of the milk with the cornflour to make a paste and boil the rest of the milk in a pan (or in the microwave in a heatproof bowl, if you like) with the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Once the milk scalds, whisk in the cornflour paste and continue to whisk furiously until the sauce is thick and lump-free.
Layer the moussaka in an oven-proof dish with meat (fish out the cinnamon stick first), followed by the aubergine, until you run out of both. Top with the béchamel and scatter over the cheese and bake for around 40 minutes, or until the moussaka is bubbling and the cheese has browned. Serve with a green salad.
Visit Great British Chefs for more gluten-free recipes.