This week I had a couple of family members over for dinner and decided it would be nice to try making Jamie`s moussaka. Let me tell you, this is comfort food in the truest sense. It takes a lot of time, but in the end it`s worth the time and effort. So if you have an afternoon off or are having people over for dinner, this is the perfect recipe.
Let`s start with the ingredients. There are a lot of layers to a moussaka, so the list of ingredients is pretty long. I stuck with Jamie`s recipe very closely only because I`ve never made anything close to this before and didn`t want to spoil it. The only slight alteration I made is that I added a little bit of zucchini which I knew was a safe play. Aside from that, I made a few substitutes because of necessity. I didn`t have any fresh rosemary, so I used the dried stuff. I also could not find any pecorino cheese, so I put in some parmigiano reggiano. I also decided to use 2 egg plants instead of the recommended 4. The egg plants I got were very large, so any more would have been impossible to fit in the roasting tray.
The reason why this recipe takes so long is because of the many different steps in the process. There`s not a whole lot of time to rest, so make sure that you prepare some things in advance if you don`t want to be super busy for a couple of hours.
The first thing I did was make the ragu. I started by frying a mixture of ground lamb and beef for 15 minutes at high heat and then added garlic, onion and some herbs and spices. After the onions got soft, I poured on a bit of wine and then added tomatoes. Unfortunately, the pan pictured above does not come with a lid, so I transferred all the contents to a deep pan and let it simmer for an hour. It comes out with a rich and thick sauce that looks good enough to eat on its own.
In the meantime, I started parboling and roasting the potatoes and frying the egg plant. At this point, I essentially had three things going at once, and in the book Jamie recommends to start working on a white sauce. I found out the hard way that unless you`re a disciplined chef, this is simply not possible. You have to work on the egg plant in batches and cook them for a couple of minutes on each side. So, when I tried to make a white sauce at the same time, it did not work out too well. So, I had to ditch the first try and start over.
I decided to finish frying all the egg plant and then to start on the white sauce again. It requires some patience and a lot of whisking, so you have to pay attention. Luckily, the second time came out perfect! At that point, the potatoes and the ragu were ready so I was able to start layering into the roasting pan.
Potatoes act as your bottom layer and then I added half the ragu, some feta and the eggplant and repeated that one more time. Then I poured on the sauce and shred some cheese over top.
I put it in the oven at 375. The recipe called for 40 minutes, but to get that golden colour on top I needed to hold it in there for another 15 minutes and increased to 400 degrees for 5 minutes. I have a gas oven, so it may be different for electric ones. Either way, it came out great!
The last bit of torture is that you have to let the mussaka rest for 30 minutes! I was very hungry at that point and I thought it would be nice to have some appetizers. I found a great little recipe on Jamie`s site for `Greek style party combos`. This involved putting some zucchini, hot pepper, mint, olive and feta on a fork. My feta was crumbling too much so I used toothpicks instead. These were a nice little starter full of taste and texture. They were also super simple and quick! I will post the recipe I used below.
After the wait, we had the finished product! I served it with a nice Greek wine to tie it in with the theme. The moussaka had an amazing array of flavours, all of which complimented each other beautifully. The potatoes added a bit of harder texture, while the white sauce was a great finish on top. Although there was a lot of egg plant, it was not overpowering by any means. There were just so many different tastes going on at once that you had to slow down to enjoy its richness.
So there it is, the Mighty Greek Moussaka. Although it took almost an entire afternoon, it was well worth the effort. I would highly recommend this for anyone having a Greek themed dinner party, or if you just want to make something special for the family. None of the steps are overly difficult, but just require your time and patience. Don`t be afraid to add something extra to spice things up a bit. I played it safe this time, but I can see myself adding some olives or even some spicier peppers for an extra kick.
Until next time!
Recipe for Greek style party combos