A delicious and comforting recipe with deep, rich flavours. Manjiri shares a recipe for moussaka passed down in her family.
This recipe is almost a family heirloom, it has been shared my favourite aunt. It is something I’ve come home to on a rainy afternoon with a rather sour mood and my nose has led me to the table. The very sight of that casserole with the melted cheese and her sitting at the table beaming was enough to have me dance an impromptu jig! She has experimented with this recipe enough times and she doesn’t really measure anything exactly – it’s a pinch of this and a dollop of that and a slosh of wine – you get the picture right?
This delicious and comforting recipe with all its deep, rich flavours can even mend broken hearts she says.....Well I do agree! Even to cook this dish is cathartic enough a process to bring relief. Although partly from exhaustion! Oh yes - a labour of love this one is and requires patience too. But it’s all worth it at the end seeing happy faces at the table tucking in and asking for seconds and thirds, happy clattering of forks on plate with moussaka on the table.
It is strange how we adapt recipes from various parts of the world as our own and tweak them to suit our taste buds, so you will find that there is a hint of chilli and few other ingredients have been eliminated.
Ingredients for the Lamb Mince Layer
750gms lamb mince
8 large tomatoes- finely chopped
3 large onions- finely chopped
5 garlic cloves- peeled and minced fine
1tsp chilli powder
Salt as per taste
3 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp sugar
150 ml red wine
3-4 bay leaves
A handful of parsley finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1. In a large saucepan, heat oil and add the chopped onions.
2. When the onion starts to turn transparent, add the lamb mince, chilli powder and chopped garlic.
3. Fry until meat changes colour and is mixed well with the onions.
4. Now add the fresh thyme, chopped parsley, bay leaves and chopped tomatoes after draining them of all excess water, salt and sugar.
5. Mix well and let it cook on a low flame for about 45 minutes.
6. Add the red wine midway.
7. Do not add any water while cooking- you should be left with a fairly thick meat sauce- with minimum liquid at the end of your cooking time.
Top Tip: While the lamb is cooking get started with chopping the aubergines and while they are soaking for 20 minutes you can also make the white sauce to efficiently manage your time.
Ingredients for the Aubergines
2-3 large aubergines - sliced into thick circular pieces.
3-4 tbsp Oil for frying
1.Soak the sliced aubergines in cold salted water for about 20mins. Aubergines are notorious for soaking up as much oil as you can feed them so they need to be soaked in order to absorb considerably lesser oil.
2. Remove, and pat dry on a clean towel/napkin.
3.Heat about 3-4 tbsp oil in a non stick frying pan, and shallow fry the aubergine slices on both sides until brownish (you could cover and cook for a few minutes during each batch of frying). Do not rush this job on high heat as the aubergines will not cook, but burn!!
4. When one batch is done, remove and place on paper to drain excess oil.
5. Continue, until all aubergine slices have been fried.
Ingredients for the White Sauce
55gms (approx 4tbsp) all purpose flour sieved
2 tbsp butter
Pinch of salt / pepper
1. In a non-stick sauce pan, melt the butter, do not let it brown.
2. Add the flour and with a wooden spoon, stir into the butter, until it forms a smooth thick paste and leaves the sides of the pan.
3. Now pour in the milk slowly, stirring briskly all along. For better results milk should be room temperature or on a cold day give it 30 seconds in the microwave.
4. On a low flame, let the mixture thicken slowly- but keep whisking, beating or stirring briskly.
5. Now sauce should be smooth and thick (if it’s lumpy- pass it through a sieve!)
6. Add pinch of salt and sprinkle generously with freshly cracked black, stir and allow cooling for a bit before adding some of the cheese and stir well till it has melted inside – now keep aside this sauce until required.
Almost there now!!!!
In a large (deep) baking dish, place a layer of the fried aubergines. Top it with a layer of the lamb mince.
Continue this alternate layering process until all the aubergines and mince are used up. Now pour the thick white sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remainder of grated cheese.
Bake in a hot oven for about 40mins until the sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted and golden brown!!
Serve with garlic bread and plenty of fresh green salad.