Prep 1 hr 30 mins
Cook 30 mins
Moussaka (or Moussakás as it is pronounced in Greek)needs no introduction as it is now considered one of Greece's national dishes and is probably, by and large, initially responsible for making Greek cooking so popular. This recipe, however, will make you compare all the Moussaka you have ever tried and they will, as unlikely as it may seem, fall short in comparison - it really is that good. Straight from my own dinner table, on Zakynthos Island, Greece, to yours. Any questions? Feel free to contact me. Wishing you kalí órexi - bon appetit, Maria www.authentic-greek-recipes.com
THE MEAT SAUCE
- 1 kg ground beef, minced 3 times
- 1 large ripe finely chopped tomatoes
- 1 large grated onion
- 4 finely chopped garlic cloves
- 1⁄2 cup red wine
- 1⁄2 cup condensed tomato juice
- 1⁄2 teaspoon oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1⁄2 cup olive oil
- 2 cups water
FOR THE VEGETABLES
- 2 large medium sliced eggplants
- 5 -6 medium peeled and sliced potatoes
- 2 tablespoons grated spicy hard yellow cheese
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- light vegetable oil (for frying)
FOR THE BECHAMEL CREAM
- 2 well beaten eggs
- 200 g margarine
- 10 tablespoons plain flour
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 -4 tablespoons very spicy grated hard yellow cheese
- 8 cups cold milk
- Before starting anything it must be noted that Moussaka, in every Greek home, is made in 3 'stages'. The preparation of the meat sauce, the vegetable cooking and layering and finally the bechamel cream.
- FOR THE MEAT SAUCE:.
- Pour the oil into a deep large pan and heat it slightly. Crumble the minced beef into the oil together with the onion and garlic. Brown everything well, stirring constantly so the beef does not clump. Pour in the wine and allow everything to boil until the wine evaporates. Add the fresh tomato, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper and stir regularly while waiting for the tomato to soften well. Pour in the tomato juice, stir everything and allow it to cook and thicken. Finally, pour in the water and, over a medium flame, allow the sauce to cook until the beef is tender and the liquids have evaporated by at least 2/3 and the sauce is thick.
- WHILE THE MEAT SAUCE IS COOKING PREPARE THE VEGETABLES:.
- Cut the eggplants into medium slices and soak them in salted water for 1 hour before your commence your sauce so everything will be more conveniently timed. This soaking removes the bitterness in the eggplant skins and also helps them not to absorb so much oil while frying. Remove the eggplants from the eater, strain them well and then dry them on a kitchen towel to absorb any excess water. Fry the potato slices and then strain them on kitchen paper. Oil your moussaka plan with the tablespoons of olive oil and created a layer with the fried potatoes taking care not to leave any gaps. Fry the eggplants and again strain them on kitchen paper and place then in a layer on top of the sliced potatoes. Sprinkle some salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of the grated cheese on the eggplant layer.
- Strain the meat sauce of any excess oil (otherwise your moussaka will be too greasy) and then pour it evenly on top of the eggplant. Sprinkle the sauce with the 2nd tablespoon of grated cheese and then prepare your Bechamel Cream.
- FOR THE BECHAMEL CREAM:.
- This is an age old recipe handed down from mother to daughter, in my family, and then finally from my mother down to me. I strongly recommend that you avoid the temptation to adjust it as the extraordinary delight you will get when you taste it atop of traditional country moussaka, will leave an aftertaste that will linger in your memory for days.
- Melt the butter in a pot, over a low flame, and add the flour stirring with a wooden spoon until the flour and butter combine to make a roux. Quickly add the 4 of the cups of milk and keep stirring with a whisk until the mixture becomes almost creamy and when it starts to thicken a lot, add the remaining milk and the beaten eggs (after the milk). Continue stirring until everything has combined evenly and is a thick creamy texture - this may take some effort (if you have lumps, use an electric hand mixer in it for a couple of minutes and they will dissolve). Add the sugar, mix it in well, the salt, pepper, cinnamon and cheese and mix everything well until it acquires its creamy texture again. Allow it to bubble over a low flame for about 1 minute, while stirring constantly. If your cream is too thick, add a little more milk or water and stir it in well until it obtains the desired thickness. If, on the other hand, your cream is a little too thin, let it stand for about 5 minutes and it will thicken as it cools, and then use it.
- Pour the Bechamel cream evenly on top of the meat sauce and add the dabs of margarine to the surface of the cream in various places. Bake the moussaka in a medium preheated oven at 180ºC - 350ºF, for about 30 minutes, or until the cream unevenly gently browns in places. Allow the moussaka to cool for about 20 minutes and then cut it into servings.
If this is 'authentic' then I guess I must like 'unathentic'. It bore absolutely no resemblance to the delightful dish I had some years ago at a Greek restaurant in Maine. The dish I remember had a firm custard consistancy and this was a sloppy mess when I served it. I also feel that the meat sauce could use more oregano and the bechamel sauce had too much sugar. Neither my husband nor I enjoyed it. I gave the leftovers to the wild birds.
This took some effort but the taste? Oh, heaven! It froze beautifully and lost none of it's flavour and didn't dry out. The bechamel sauce was like nothing we had ever tried before, don't even contemplate altering it, it will be your loss. I have tried many mousakas but this has got to be one of the absolute best! I will definately be making it again and again. The family loved it! Mary.