My Moussaka

I love to cook, but some days I’m a bit lazier than others and just don’t feel like having the mess to clean up afterward. Today was one of those lazy days. Plus I had gone out in the morning to meet some ladies from my “Spanish Ladies Group” and when I got home I was too hungry to wait for a proper meal. Thankfully, I never keep junk food at home, if not I’m sure I would’ve succumbed. But I was good and ate some hummus, fresh mozzarella and a wild rocket, jamon serrano and pomegranate salad for lunch. That brought me back to life and so I was ready to attack making this dish (which had been intended for lunch), albeit still not wanting to make a mess.

Moussaka is a dish from the Eastern Mediterranean, made in Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and other countries. It’s typically made with a bechamel sauce, just like lasagna is made in many places. Some bechamel sauces include egg, creating a custard. Lamb is the most common red meat used, but it’s quite delicious with beef too; and the variety of cheese is really up to your taste.

My version does not have bechamel (that would have meant more dishes to clean) and I used the cheeses I had on hand, which were ricotta and mascarpone.

If you prefer to make this with bechamel (with animal or nut milk), it does make a creamier dish.

MOUSSAKA A LA DEBRA

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 2 large aubergines
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 750g minced beef (I used meat with about 10% fat to make this dish a bit richer)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 5-6 large tomatoes, rinsed and chopped
  • 7-8 medium mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 – 2 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg (don’t be afraid to add more of this spice; although it’s generally strong, it disappears into the meat)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground basil
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 500g ricotta
  • 500g mascarpone
  • 3-4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Process

For the meat sauce: Over medium heat, place about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pan or wok. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 4 minutes, until the onions are translucent, stirring frequently so the garlic does not burn. Add the meat and cook thoroughly until brown. Add the mushrooms and cook an additional 2 minutes, stirring a few times to mix well. Add the red wine, the tomatoes and spices (except the cilantro or parsley). Stirring frequently, simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C. In the meantime, rinse and partially peel the aubergines. Cut in slices, lengthwise. Place aubergines in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 10-15  minutes, flipping the slices from the bottom to the top, so the top ones do not burn. Set aside on a separate plate.

For the assembly: In the same ovenproof dish used before, place a layer of the aubergines. Spoon about half of the meat sauce over this layer. With your hands, scoop out half of each cheese and place in lumps over the meat sauce. Sprinkle the cilantro or parsley over the cheeses. Repeat with a layer of aubergines, meat sauce and cheeses. Sprinkle with some additional ground nutmeg.

Bake at 180C for 30-35 minutes. Serve with some extra cilantro or parsley over top, if desired.