The dish moussaka means many things to many people. In fact the word itself is derived from an Arabic word meaning “chilled”.
Most versions, mine included, are based on aubergine layers with tomato and minced meat. And the Greek dish is now most popular with a béchamel sauce on top, like a savoury custard.
Although a little time consuming, I really enjoy making it. I start by sautéeing the onions very gently until opaque, adding the tomatoes (tinned unless very ripe- and in season), and cooking slowly with some thyme until slightly thick and very tasty. At the same time I peel some potatoes and cook them in plenty of boiling salty water until just cooked. Then slice them intl 5mm slices.
Then I fry slices of aubergine in a hot pan with lots of good quality olive oil until well cooked and golden. This step is very important as they are not nice if not cooked through.
When the aubergines are cooked I use the same pan to cook the mince, ensuring I crumble the meat strands into the hot pan very carefully, to make sure it is cooked thoroughly and not in clumps. Slowly slowly is the way to go way with this. The demo in Ballymaloe where Rory showed us how to make the best ragu sauce, was where I picked up this technique. Then add the meat to the tomato sauce.
Last but not least is the enriched béchamel sauce; melted butter, added equal volume of flour when the butter is foaming. Once the flour has cooked out, I add the milk slowly and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly until it has bubbled gently for a couple of minutes. Once I’ve seasoned the sauce, I stir in 2 egg yolks and a handful of grated Gruyère.
I put a layer of potatoes on the bottom of a deep oven proof dish. Then some béchamel sauce, next comes the ragu, a final layer of potatoes and finally the aubergines. This is then covered with the rest of the enriched sauce, and put in a hot oven until golden brown on top and bubbling.
A green salad is enough accompaniment to this, with a glass of Beaujolais.
The main course was quite time consuming, so for dessert I whipped up some cream, crushed meringue into it, folded in 2 sliced bananas and a couple of tablespoons of butterscotch sauce that I had in the fridge.