MOUSSAKA (GREEK EGGPLANT BEEF BAKE)

MOUSSAKA (GREEK EGGPLANT BEEF BAKE)
MOUSSAKA

Moussaka is to the Greek what Lasagna is to Italians. Made with layers of eggplant with beef in a rich tomato sauce, topped with béchamel sauce, this version I am sharing is a very authentic Moussaka recipe.

Though it takes time to assemble, it is well worth the effort. This is serious comfort food!

PREP TIME:
40 mins

COOK TIME:
30 mins

TOTAL TIME:
1 hour 10 mins

This traditional Moussaka recipe is from the The Food and Cooking of Greece cookbook. I have adapted it slightly and made notes where I have made changes. Though it seems like there are a lot of steps, this recipe has a nice flow to it. Prepare the eggplant first, and while they are sweating, make the filling. While the filling is simmering away, make the béchamel sauce. Then put it all together to bake!
Author: Nagi | RecipeTin Eats
Recipe type: Mains
Cuisine: Greek
Serves: 6

INGREDIENTS:
Eggplant
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large eggplants / aubergines, cut into ¼" / ¾cm thick slices

Filling
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced (brown, white, yellow)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1.4lb/700g ground beef (beef mince)
14oz/400g crushed tomatoes (Note 1)
3 tbsp tomato paste (Note 1)
1 cup beef broth/stock (or water + 1 beef bouillon cube) (Note 1)
1½ tsp sugar (any)
2 tsp dried oregano
¾ tsp salt

Bechamel Sauce (Note 2)
4 tbsp butter
5 tbsp plain flour
3 cups milk (I use low fat)
¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated (optional)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese (Note 3)
1 egg + 1 egg yolk (Note 4)
Salt and pepper

Topping
⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs (Note 5)

INSTRUCTIONS:
Eggplant (Note 6)
Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and place them (stacked) in a large colander. Leave to sweat for 30 minutes, then pat dry with a paper towel.
Preheat oven to 200C/390F. Lay eggplant onto 2 large baking trays, brush with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes or until just softened. Remove and set aside to cool.

Filling
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat, then cook the garlic and onion for 3 minutes. Add the beef and cook, using the wooden spoon to break up the mince as you go. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, then cover, lower heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.

Bechamel Sauce
Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, using a whisk to keep it moving.
Add 1 cup of milk and whisk to combine. It will thicken quite quickly, then add the remaining milk. Whisk until smooth then cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until it thickens so that it thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon, as per photo below.
Remove from the stove and whisk in cheese. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then whisk the eggs in.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble
Preheat oven to 180C/350F (all oven types).
Place half the eggplant in the bottom of a baking dish (I used my 26cm/9" Lodge skillet), then top with all the Filling.
Top with remaining eggplant, then pour over the Béchamel Sauce, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

NOTES
1. The original recipe only used 2 large tomatoes. I felt that this did not give the filling quite enough flavour for my taste so I increased the amount of tomato in it and added beef broth.

2. I like to have plenty of Béchamel sauce on my Moussaka so I increased the flour by 1 tbsp and increased the milk slightly.

3. Traditionally this is made with grated Kefalotiri Cheese which is a greek cheese that is not available in Australia (to my knowledge). Parmesan cheese is a close substitute.

4. I found using 2 eggs + 1 yolk per the original recipe made the Béchamel sauce set too much for my taste. I like mine creamy, not firm custard like.

5. The original recipe used fresh breadcrumbs. I like using panko because it saves making my own but still has more crunch than normal breadcrumbs.

6. The main objective with the eggplant is to prepare it so excess water is removed before assembling the moussaka. Otherwise, it drops water while baking and you end up with a watery base - I've made this mistake before.

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