Thursday 17 January 2008
My preferred version. It seems that there are as many ways of making Moussaka as there are people available to question on the subject. In my research on the history of the dish, I came across references to it with and without Béchamel sauce, with Zucchini, or Potatoes, instead of with Aubergine (or in some instances, with a combination of any or all of them); most recipes specify Lamb, some will allow the option of Beef, and I found one, which I rather liked, which merely referred to 'any red meat' (shades of the restaurant in Nairobi, probably apocryphally famous for suggesting that their signature dish of roast Wildebeest would go well with 'any brown wine...').
As a child, I recall we generally had a version of Moussaka made with Beef and Potatoes (Aubergine hadn't really made it to rural Kent in those days, except as a dinner party indulgence) and a crisp crust of cheese, reminiscent of the most delicious bits of a Croque Monsieur.........
For years, Beoty's, in Wright's Lane, featured an excellent Moussaka on their menu - always baked as an individual portion, and formally unmoulded at table with the aid of two serving spoons. The secret to its quality, they maintained, was the fact that the meat was never minced, but always finely chopped by hand.
Ingredients: 1 Onion, finely chopped; 1 large clove of Garlic, chopped; 1 lb of Lamb, finely diced (you can use leftover roast lamb for this, although I think you probably get a better result if you start with fresh meat); 1/2 lb Mushrooms, chopped; 1 tin of chopped Tomatoes; 2 tablespoons of fresh Parsley; 2 tablespoons of Tomato purée; 5 fl oz of dark Stock (Beef or Duck); 6 medium Aubergines; 6 tablespoons of grated Parmesan; Salt & Pepper; Olive Oil.
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the Oil in a large pan, and cook the Onion and Garlic in it for several minutes until softened; add the diced Lamb, stir to incorporate, and cook for about five minutes until the meat has lost its pinkness.
2. Add Mushrooms, Tomatoes, and Parsley. Season, to taste, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes.
3. Dilute the Tomato purée in the Stock, add to the pan, stir in well, and cook for a further ten minutes.
4. Meanwhile, slice the Aubergines thinly, and fry the slices in batches in Oil in a large frying pan; the slices should be well coloured on both sides, and as each batch is finished, remove it from the frying pan and set it to drain on kitchen paper.
5. Heat the oven, at 180 degrees C.
6. Line the base and sides of a deep oven dish with slices of fried Aubergine. Check the seasoning in the Lamb mixture, and adjust if necessary. Put one third of the mixture into the bottom of the aubergine-lined dish; top with a quarter of the grated Parmesan, and cover with a layer of Aubergine slices. Repeat this process twice more, and use the last of the Parmesan to sprinkle over the top layer of slices of Aubergine.
7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes, or until the top has browned thoroughly.
Best left for a day or two, and re-heated in the oven, before serving.