LAMB MOUSSAKA WITH
For me, Moussaka seems inexorably linked with fondly remembered holidays usually involving blue seas and skies and generally too much food. For which Moussaka is often a principal offender. Mostly, it reminds me of sunshine - a curious contrast as Moussaka seems for all the world a hearty, wintry dish more suited to rain and clouds. Which is presumably why I love it so much. A warming, comforting dish on a cold day that simultaneously draws memories of the sun. What could be better?
We have kept our version of this dish fairly simple. The lamb is spiked with cinnamon and oregano, as it should be and while many recipes call for both potatoes and courgettes, we prefer to stick solely to aubergine, as by far the most interesting of the three.
Our real highlight comes in replacing the often bland bechamel with a salty whipped feta - deepening Aegean memories and adding a salty freshness to cut through the richness of the dish. It’s one of my undisputed favourites
3 Large Aubergines,
500g Minced Lamb,
1 Large Onion, finely diced
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 tsp Tomato Concentrate
1 x 400g Tin of Peeled Plum Tomatoes
250ml Red Wine,
250ml Chicken Stock,
3 tsp Dried Oregano,
2 Bay Leaves,
1 Small Bunch of Parsley, roughly chopped
Generous Pinch of Salt & Pepper
300g Strained Greek Yoghurt
2 Egg Yolks
Pinch of Salt
Etra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Slice the aubergines into 5mm thin disks or as thin as you can manage. Layer the sliced aubergine in a large sieve or colander, sprinkling with salt in between each layer. Leave to stand over a plate or in the sink for 30 minutes. This will help to draw out any bitter juices from the aubergine.
2. Place a large griddle pan over a medium heat.
3. Before removing the aubergines, gently press down on the layers to draw out any remaining juices. Rinse the aubergine slices and then pat dry before brushing with olive oil and laying on the griddle pan. Grill the aubergines on both sides until softened and lightly charred. Repeat until all of the aubergines have been grilled. Set aside until needed.
TIP - This can be done a day in advance and kept in the fridge if necessary. I usually salt the aubergine, then prepare the filling and grill the aubergines as the lamb is cooking
1. Place the minced Lamb into a large mixing bowl and loosen and break apart. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Place a large, casserole pan over a high heat with a lug of olive oil. Add loose handfuls of the minced Lamb into the pan browning the mince for about 2-3 minutes. You will almost certainly need to do this in batches. Once the meat is browned remove from the pan.
3. Add the onion into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until starting to colour. Add the garlic and oregano and cook for a further 2 minutes.
4. Deglaze the pan with a splash of the red wine, scraping off any fond at the bottom of the pan, before adding the tomato concentrate to the pan and cooking out for 2 minutes.
5. Return the meat to the pan and add the wine. Increase the heat to the pan and allow the wine to reduce by half, stirring occasionally to prevent anything catching on the bottom of the pan.
6. Once the wine is reduced, add the plum tomatoes and mix together, breaking up the tomatoes as you go. Add the chicken stock, cinnamon stick and bay leaves to the pan and reduce to a gentle simmer. Top with a lid, or some scrunched-up baking parchment, and leave to cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender and the liquid has reduced almost entirely. You want the filling not to be too wet and capable of holding its own shape.
7. Once cooked, remove and discard the bay leaves and cinnamon stick and season to taste with salt, pepper and a little chopped parsley.
THE WHIPPED FETA
1. Add all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until Smooth. Set aside until ready to use.
TIP - This can also be done with a mixing bowl and a whisk, starting with the feta and then gradually adding the yoghurt and finally the yolks to achieve a smooth texture.
ASSEMBLING THE MOUSSAKA
1. Add a thin layer of the lamb filling to the base of a large baking dish followed by a layer of the cooked aubergine. Top the aubergine with another thin layer of the lamb followed by another layer of the aubergine. Repeat until you have used up all of your lamb filling, all of the aubergine, or ideally both!
2. Top the Moussaka with the whipped feta, either piping in place, or spreading over and tufting up for a rustic finish.
TIP - The Moussaka can be assembled a day in advance if necessary and will freeze extremely well too.
3. Preheat the oven to 180Cº.
4. Tightly cover the dish with foil and then place in the oven for 30 minutes.
5. Remove the foil and increase the heat of the oven to 200Cº. Bake for a further 10 minutes or until the whipped feta is starting to turn golden.
6. Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for 10 minutes before serving.