Sunday, 12 January 2014

Cheat's moussaka

My love of Greek food is limitless and moussaka is one of my favourite comfort foods, especially in winter. There's a passing resemblance to lasagne, with its layers of meat, bechamel sauce and cheesy topping, and the pasta replaced with aubergine and potato.

Like lasagne, it's fiddly to assemble if you go down the traditional route and make a bechamel - something I'd only bother with if cooking for friends. This cheat's version substitutes the bechamel with yoghurt and crème fraiche. I also don't bother to fry or grill the aubergine slices first, but layer them straight in uncooked.

Enough for two portions, so you can freeze one (or it'll keep in the fridge for up three days).

What you need: 
300g minced lamb
1 onion, diced
Olive oil
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 dsp tomato purée
Glass of red wine
Oregano
Salt, pepper
Small aubergine, thinly sliced
Medium potato, peeled and very thinly sliced
Greek yoghurt / crème fraiche
Feta or Parmesan cheese
Breadcrumbs (optional)

What to do:
Sauté the onion in a glug of olive oil over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Turn up the heat, add the lamb and fry it until it's browned. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, wine and oregano. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes. Season to taste.

To assemble the moussaka, put a layer of potatoes in the bottom of two individual-size pie dishes. Put a layer of aubergine on top. Add the lamb, then another layer of aubergine and spoon over enough yoghurt to cover. Finish with a layer of potato. Cover each moussaka with a couple of spoonfuls of the creme fraiche, then sprinkle over a little crumbled feta or finely grated Parmesan cheese. You can layer on some breadcrumbs before the cheese, as some Greeks do. Bake for an hour at 180C until the potatoes are tender enough to put a knife through.
Cook's tips:
Make sure you slice the potatoes as thinly as possible - they should be almost translucent. If they are too thick, they will take too long to cook through and everything else will be overcooked and possibly burned by then.

To make the honeyed thyme carrots in the photo, cut the carrots into batons, put in an ovenproof dish, then add a small amount of olive oil a generous drizzle of runny honey, a pinch of dried thyme (or some fresh leaves stripped off the stalks if you have some) and some seasoning. Bake alongside the moussaka for about 45 minutes. Sometimes I make khoriatiki if I fancy a salad instead.