Moussaka is one of my favourite dishes to eat. It’s a bit of an involved one to make, you need four different cooking pans going to make all the component parts; that’s why I don’t make it very often! Frying the aubergines, I think, is one of the most laborious parts of making the moussaka so I’ve got a different way of doing it. My moussaka without frying the aubergines is every bit as good as the original and you use far less oil than if you fry them. Win win.
You will need (for four people):
- 3 large aubergines, thinly sliced
- Extra virgin olive oil
For the lamb:
- 500g minced lamb
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp dried mint
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 large tomato, roughly diced
- Salt and pepper
- 500g potatoes, sliced (you can peel them if you like)
For the béchamel:
- 50g butter
- 50g plain flour
- 450ml milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- Salt and pepper
Preheat an oven to 190C. Get two large non-stick baking trays out and add a good splash of olive oil, you want the bottom of the tray to have a thin coating of oil all over it; using a brush to spread it around is really helpful.
Arrange the aubergine slices on the trays so that you have a single layer on each tray; a few overlapping is fine because they will shrink as they cook. Drizzle a little more oil over the aubergines and then place in the oven for 20 minutes.
Remove the aubergines from the oven and turn them over before roasting again for 15-20 minutes or until golden/dark brown. Remove from the oven and put to one side.
While the aubergines are roasting you can make the other moussaka layers.
Add the potatoes to a pan of cold, salted water then place on the hob and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Drain the potatoes when they’re cooked and put to one side to cool down.
Get a large frying pan on a medium heat, add a little oil with the onion and fry for 5-10 minutes until the onion is softened. Add the lamb mince and continue cooking until the mince is well browned; break the mince up with a spoon while cooking.
Stir in the spices and garlic and cook for another few minutes. Then add the herbs, tomato paste and tomato with a little salt and pepper and leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes until thickened. Stir from time to time.
While the lamb mixture thickens make the béchamel sauce. Add the butter to a saucepan on a low/medium heat and leave to fully melt. Add the flour and stir together well, cook for a minute or two. Add the bay leaf and then gradually pour in the milk, whisking the whole time, then continue whisking while you bring the sauce to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add a little salt, plenty of pepper and the nutmeg.
Layer the moussaka up in an ovenproof dish putting the lamb at the bottom, then the aubergines followed by the potatoes. Pour the béchamel sauce over everything then bake in the oven at 180C for 20-30 minutes until turning golden brown on top.
I like to serve mine with a big tomato salad but a crisp green salad on the side would be great too.
Leaving the bay leaf in the sauce while it bakes really helps to impart a lovely flavour into the béchamel sauce. I’m not sure the potatoes on top are necessarily that traditional but I know so many people who add them to the top that I can’t imagine eating moussaka without them. This is a rich, full of flavour meal and cooking the moussaka without frying the aubergines does make things easier. The once or twice a year I make moussaka I try to make a double batch so that I can keep one in the freezer for a rainy day.