Moussaka has gotten a bad rep over the years but I put that down to the questionable quality of the meat sometimes used. The lamb needs to be good quality, otherwise the aubergine layer turns into a sponge for all the fat. I can’t understand why people would take a traditional Greek dish such as moussaka and cover it with Parmesan or cheddar. This is all the more delicious with the introduction of feta cheese, which is undoubtedly one of the most famous Greek cheeses. The salty, tangy flavour of feta partners beautifully with the rich lamb sauce and is crumbled over the bechamel sauce.
Serves 4, generously
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large aubergines, sliced
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon oregano, fresh is best but if not
- 500g minced lamb
- 1 x 450g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée
- 150ml red wine
- Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 100g feta cheese, broken up into little pieces
For the bechamel
- 500ml milk
- 60g butter
- 60g plain flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4. Cut the aubergines widthways into 0.5cm slices, and put them onto oiled baking sheets. Brush with olive oil and season. Bake for about 25 minutes until soft, golden and floppy. It’s important to season and roast these well.
- Meanwhile, put two tablespoons of olive oil into a large frying pan over a medium high heat and cook the onion until soft. Add the garlic, cinnamon, allspice and oregano and cook for a further couple of minutes, then stir in the lamb. Turn up the heat slightly, and brown the lamb well, cooking until the mixture is quite dry.
- Stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée and wine, bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down low and cook for 30–40 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season and stir in the parsley.
- Meanwhile, make the bechamel. Bring the milk to just below boiling point, and melt the butter in another saucepan. Stir the flour into the butter and cook for a couple of minutes, then gradually whisk in the hot milk. Cook until you have a thick sauce. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly, then beat in the eggs, salt to taste and slightly more nutmeg than you might think wise (it’s a strong flavour, but you need a heft of it in this dish I think – half a teaspoon at least).
- Arrange a third of the aubergines in the base of an oven dish, and top with half the meat. Repeat these layers, then finish off with a layer of aubergine, and top with the sauce. Sprinkle the crumbled feta on top.
- Bake for about 45 minutes until well browned, and then leave to cool and set for 15 minutes before serving or better still cook for 30 minutes, allow to cool, then refrigerate and reheat and serve the following day.
This dish is best prepared and cooked the day before, allowing the flavours to infuse and then reheate the next day. It also freezes well.
Gourmet caterer Eunice Power puts quality Irish lamb to good use, combining local ingredients with her love for Middle Eastern flavours to create versatile dishes ideal for family get-togethers, midweek meals and freezer-friendly staples
Recipes in this series: