Moussaka, a dish eaten from the Balkans to the Middle East with countless variants, the Greek version perhaps the most famous (with beef or lamb, eggplant and a souffle-like bechamel topping). But here is how I like mine: beef (or sometimes lamb) sauteed with an onion, a sweet pepper sometimes, sweet paprika, tomatoes (fresh or canned or passata), oregano, parsley, black pepper; this mixture then layered between slices of potatoes and roasted aubergine and roasted courgette (or marrow), baked until all the flavours blend seamlessly together. Then hidden under a final, crisp, golden and light layer of egg beaten with thick yoghurt. A little crackle as your spoon digs in, deliciousness within revealed.
1-2 baking potatoes
1 medium sized aubergine
1-2 medium courgettes
2 tbsp sunflower (or olive) oil, plus extra for roasting
1 onion or banana shallot, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped (optional)
250g beef mince (or lamb, or pork, or a combination)
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp oregano
½ tbsp Bouillon powder (optional)
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
250 ml tomato passata
1 tbsp tomato puree
150g thick yoghurt (or Greek yoghurt)
Salt + pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4.
- Slice your aubergine and courgette in 1cm slices, brush with a little oil on both sides and arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast them in the oven until softened, golden and starting to caramelize. Turn them over to ensure they are colouring evenly on both sides. Remove from the oven and set aside. While the aubergine and courgettes are roasting, peel and slice your potato in 1/2 cm slices, and set aside.
- In a heavy based pan over medium heat, sweat the finely chopped onion in the sunflower oil until soft and translucent. Then add the finely chopped sweet red pepper if using and continue to sweat the onion and pepper over a medium heat for a few more minutes until the pepper softens.
- Add the beef mince and break it up until completely browned. Turn the heat to low then add your sweet paprika, oregano, Bouillon powder, chopped fresh parsley, stirring to combine well with the beef mince. Add the tomato passata and tomato puree and cook down for a few minutes to combine the flavour and reduce the meat sauce and mixture slightly. Taste and add salt and pepper to your taste. Remove from the heat.
- In a medium baking dish (30cm diameter if round, or 20 x 30cm if rectangular), start to layer your moussaka. I always start with a potato layer at the bottom (but save the nicest slices for the top). Single layer of potato slices (slightly overlapping), then the meat mixture, then roasted aubergine slices, then meat mixture, then roasted courgette slices, the remainder of the meat mixture, ending with a final layer of potatoes arranged nicely. Top up with water just reaching the top potato layer, cover with foil and bake in the oven until the potatoes are cooked through (test with a knife) – approximately 30-40 minutes. Check the water level periodically, you may need to add a splash more if the moussaka is drying out. Or if it is still too liquid after 30 minutes of baking remove the foil and continue to bake.
- When your potatoes are soft and you are starting to achieve a nice crisp top layer, prepare your egg and yoghurt topping by beating the eggs and thick yoghurt together, and season with salt and pepper. Pour evenly over the top of the moussaka, and then bake it for a further 10-15 minutes or until the egg is cooked through and you have a crisp golden top. The egg and yoghurt topping is completely optional. If you would prefer not to use it, just keep baking the moussaka until the top layer of potatoes is golden and almost caramelised. Feel free to vary your vegetables – you can use just potatoes, or just aubergine, or just courgette or any combination.
Serves 4 as a main.