Moussaka (eggplant and lamb casserole)
So as my cooking blog world grows I get inspired by more and more people. A week or two ago Auntie V made this eggplant and lamb casserole. Eggplant and lamb are so delicious together so I was immediately drawn to her recipe when I saw her post it on twitter. I knew eggplant and lamb was in my future. I ended up thinking I’d rather make some facsimile of Moussaka which I’ve never made and probably only eaten once or twice. It’s a very delicious Greek dish. I bounced around and looked at multiple Moussaka recipes. Also, since I read a wonderful Greek blogger who makes wonderful Greek food, I visited Peter’s site and found this recipe.
Frankly given Peter is Greek, I’m a bit terrified to admit this is the route I took as I did indeed take liberties. This cannot be considered a true Moussaka. I’m a bit of an Italian food snob as I’m a first generation Italian and so I know that what I’ve done here (especially with the cottage cheese!!) is probably mildly sacrilegious in the eyes of a Greek person. So let’s just call this a Moussaka inspired food.
In any case, I cook with what I have in my kitchen often determining what is created more than a recipe…so here is my creation. It turned out quite nice.
- 1 lb ground lamb (or ground beef)
- 2 eggplants
- 16 oz canned diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 red onion diced
- 8 cloves garlic diced
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 4 tablespoons pesto (I had some frozen, you can just use basil of whatever kind you like)
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
Slice eggplants in rounds, brush them with olive oil, lightly salt them and then put them on the grill. I used a small foreman grill and it took three cycles. I’ve been grilling eggplant instead of frying it for eggplant parmigiana for a long time now and so I did the same here. I also sometimes stick a big pan of eggplant in the oven under the broiler. I never prepare the eggplant with salt ahead of time and don’t know how much of a difference it makes. Peeling the eggplant would certainly make cutting up the dish easier, but I didn’t do that either.
The meat sauce is as follows:
Saute the onion and the garlic until soft and lightly browned. Toss in the ground lamb and brown that as well. I then put in the 1/2 cup of wine and cooked it on high until it was pretty much gone. Then I added the diced tomatoes and let that cook down as well, don’t want much liquid left if you want a firm casserole. While it was cooking I added the spices and herbs.
- 1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)
- 1/4 cup flour (I used rye flour as I’m allergic to wheat, so use whatever you like)
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 eggs
- 1 lb cottage cheese
- 1 cup grated pecorino cheese (there is a greek cheese called kefalotyri that is used in the true moussaka, but I saw lots of references to substituting pecorino which I always have in my home, the cottage cheese is absolutely NOT Greek.)
Make a roux with the butter and flour and then add the milk slowly while stirring. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir while on medium heat until it thickens and comes to a boil. Take off heat and let cool just a bit. Add cottage cheese and pecorino. Add eggs.
Stack the dish with the eggplant on the bottom, the meat in the middle and finally the bechamel on top.
Bake at 350 for about 30 – 40 minutes until the top is browned.
It tasted very good to me. Given that I really don’t know what an authentic Moussaka tastes like I don’t know how it compares. My husband liked it too. There was a bit too much liquid but that didn’t bother me much. It might have had I served it for guests. I really really loved the bechamel stuff…it was sort of souffle like and was delicious with the lamb and eggplant.