Saturday, 29 October 2011

Recipe XXXI - Moussaka: the busiest you'll ever be in a kitchen

The one thing that occurred to me while making Moussaka is just how much effort goes into it. And the timing is extraordinarily important. I think, that apart from when having guests, I was never busier in the kitchen on an ordinary Thursday night... In this recipe, I would like to divide into 2: the moussaka and the béchamel.

Ingredients for the moussaka:
Some minced lamb
1 Courgette
1 aubergine
5 cloves of garlic
1 onion
5 medium-sized potatoes
1 tin of tomatoes
Some ground black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 glasses red wine
Some fresh herbs, like oregano
Oh yes, and some cheese, like Gruyère, Cheddar or Pecorino

Instructions for the vegetables, and the meat sauce:
Cut the vegetables up into whatever shape you like. Traditionalists will cut them in their own style, but quite frankly, I think as long as it looks and tastes like a moussaka, it's irrelevant. You are also supposed to salt the vegetables overnight, but it was a Thursday, and I was hungry, so I added salt to them whilst cooking.
Put the minced lamb into a high-sided frying pan, add salt, and after a few minutes add the onion. And more salt. Once the onion is soft and the meat is browned, add the garlic and the herbs, cook for just a couple of minutes before you add the tomatoes and wine.
Let it simmer covered for a good 45 minutes to one hour. 20 minutes before the meat sauce is ready, fry the salted aubergines and courgettes in lots and lots of olive oil until they look nice and brown but not burned.

Also, boil the potatoes for 7 to 8 minutes in salted water before the meat sauce is ready. Put the oven on to about 170°C ten minutes before the cooking has finished. It is now you should make the béchamel (see below). You see what I mean by busy?
Right... Now, drain the water from the potatoes, and lay them on the bottom of a large ceramic or glass baking dish. Then put the aubergines and courgettes on top.

Following that, take the meat and spread over the vegetables evenly.

Grate the cheese and spread it evenly over the vegetables underneath, then pour your béchamel evenly to cover the meat sauce completely.
Put it in the oven for a good 35-45 minutes until it is golden brown.

Instructions for the béchamel:
Take a cm-thick knife's width of butter and drop it into a sizzlingly hot saucepan.

From now, start whisking like crazy. Sprinkle some flour into it until it absorbs the butter but does not exceed its quota. Slowly add some milk until it starts to form a custardy consistency. Add some salt, pepper and grate some nutmeg into it. Keep stirring to get the lumps out. It takes very little time, but is extremely fiddly if you get the consistencies mixed up.

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