One reason why I like baked meals for dinner is because my mom used to make them most of the time. When we were teenagers, this moussaka was something my brother and I would wait for with bated breath. My mom didn't disappoint-she made sure she baked it at least once or twice a month. I think it's great that she liked to introduce us to different cuisines from around the world and liked trying out new recipes. Because of her, I'm more open to experimentation! Once she tried this recipe, it became a regular family favorite, and now even I can make it with my eyes closed!
Moussaka is a classic Greek casserole, perhaps the most well-known of all Greek dishes (could even be the brand ambassador of Greek cuisine!). It is a little more elaborate than the other dishes featured on this blog, but let me tell you that the effort it takes is well worth it. Make it on those nights that you have more time and are relaxed-it might take about 30 minutes to an hour to prepare, and then 30 minutes in an oven. Of course, now that I've watched my mom make it so many times and I've also tried my hand on it, there are some shortcuts and modifications that I've made to my mom's version, which might suit those who are lazybones like me.
I am in no way claiming that this is the original or classic moussaka recipe. If you search on the net or even in cookbooks, you'll find many different ways of making it. This one is just the way my mother used to make it!
Care for a slice?
To serve 4
For non vegetarians:
For non vegetarians:
- 2 large eggplants (brinjals)-cut into discs and then into semicircles
- 1 large potato, peeled and cut into thin discs, and then into semicircles
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced into discs
- 200 gram minced meat, washed and drained
- 1 large onion, chopped fine
- Half cup thick tomato puree
- 10 flakes garlic, chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon mixed dried herbs (or oregano, parsley, thyme)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons plain flour (maida)
- 1 cup milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cheese to be grated on top
- Oil for frying
- For the brinjals-after they are cut, sprinkle salt on them and let them rest for 15 minutes (to drain out excess water and remove any bitterness). Then either deep fry them in hot oil or shallow fry them, until golden brown on both sides. Remove and place them on paper towels to drain out excess oil.
- For the potatoes-after they are cut, either deep fry or shallow fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on a paper towel.
- For the 2 large onions-after they are cut, shallow fry until golden brown and keep aside.
- For the meat sauce-Heat oil in a pan. Tip in the garlic, fry till the garlicky smell wafts out. Add the onions (chopped fine) and fry till translucent. Then add the minced meat and fry till brown in color. Add the dried herbs, salt and pepper to taste and cook with the lid closed till the meat is done (you could also pressure-cook this for 15 to 20 minutes).
- To make the bechamel sauce-Melt butter in a pan. Add the flour and stir around till a little brown. Then add the milk, salt and pepper to taste (add less salt if using salted butter). Make sure it doesn't become lumpy. It should be a nice creamy consistency. You could add cheese to this to make it a cheese sauce too.
- To assemble-In a baking dish, assemble half the brinjals in a single layer, top with the meat, put the tomato puree in blobs over the meat, then top with the fried onions and potatoes, another layer of brinjals, meat, and tomato puree. Finally top with the bechamel sauce. Grate cheese on top.
- Preheat oven to 200 C and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the cheese has melted to a golden brown.
- Enjoy this with a green salad and toasted bread (hot garlic bread would be wonderful).
Instead of the minced meat, use soya granules, soaked for 10 minutes in hot water and drained, then cook as for the meat sauce above. Layer with brinjals and potatoes.
For a full-on vegetarian version (recipe courtesy Neeraja chechi)-use a cup of mixed vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes (no need to add tomato puree). Add a vegetarian stock cube and fry as for the meat sauce above (you could omit the soya granules). Layer with brinjals and potatoes.
For the calorie conscious:
Instead of frying the potatoes and brinjals, bake at 180C for 15 to 20 minutes or until brown.
Substitute zucchini for the brinjals.
And the pie goes to:
The shortcuts I use are-I add the tomato puree to the minced meat mixture while it is being cooked. Also, I omit the fried onions altogether.
Adding a glass of wine (red or white) and some grated cheese to the meat sauce would obviously make it more delicious (teetotalers wouldn't like this step though!)
Please note that how you layer this casserole is entirely up to your liking (I'm pretty democratic with recipes that way!)