Greek Moussaka (Eggplant Beef Bake)


Ingredients

Eggplant
2 large eggplants / aubergines, cut into ¼" / ¾ cm thick slices
2 tbsp olive oil

Filling
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced (brown, white, yellow)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.4 lb / 700 g ground beef (mince)
14 oz /400g crushed tomatoes (Note 1)
3 tbsp tomato paste (Note 1)
1 cup beef broth/stock, or water + 1 beef bouillon cube (Note 1)
1½ tsp sugar (any)
2 tsp dried oregano
¾ tsp salt

Bechamel Sauce (Note 2)
4 tbsp butter
5 tbsp plain flour
3 cups milk (I use low fat)
¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated (optional)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese (Note 3)
1 egg (Note 4)
1 egg yolk (Note 4)
Salt and pepper

Topping
⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs (Note 5)

Instructions

Eggplant (Note 6)
  1. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and place them (stacked) in a large colander. Leave to sweat for 30 minutes, then pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Preheat oven to 200C/390Lay eggplant onto 2 large baking trays, brush with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes or until just softened. Remove and set aside to cool.

Filling
  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat, then cook the garlic and onion for 3 minutes. Add the beef and cook, using the wooden spoon to break up the mince as you go. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, then cover, lower heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.

Bechamel Sauce
  1. Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, using a whisk to keep it moving.
  2. Add 1 cup of milk and whisk to combine. It will thicken quite quickly, then add the remaining milk. Whisk until smooth then cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until it thickens so that it thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon, as per photo below.
  3. Remove from the stove and whisk in cheese. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then whisk the eggs in.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F (all oven types).
  2. Place half the eggplant in the bottom of a baking dish (I used my 26cm/9" Lodge skillet), then top with all the Filling.
  3. Top with remaining eggplant, then pour over the Béchamel Sauce, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Recipe Notes
  1. The original recipe only used 2 large tomatoes. I felt that this did not give the filling quite enough flavour for my taste so I increased the amount of tomato in it and added beef broth.
  2. I like to have plenty of Béchamel sauce on my Moussaka so I increased the flour by 1 tbsp and increased the milk slightly.
  3. Traditionally this is made with grated Kefalotiri Cheese which is a greek cheese that is not available in Australia (to my knowledge). Parmesan cheese is a close substitute.
  4. I found using 2 eggs + 1 yolk per the original recipe made the Béchamel sauce set too much for my taste. I like mine creamy, not firm custard like.
  5. The original recipe used fresh breadcrumbs. I like using panko because it saves making my own but still has more crunch than normal breadcrumbs.
  6. The main objective with the eggplant is to prepare it so excess water is removed before assembling the moussaka. Otherwise, it drops water while baking and you end up with a watery base - I've made this mistake before. 
  7. FREEZING: Cook per recipe, then allow to cool. Cover tightly with cling wrap then freeze. To reheat, thaw then reheat at 180C/350F for 25 minutes uncovered or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out hot.


Different recipes cook the eggplant differently. I find the way I have described in the recipe to be the most effective way. You could just bake it for around 15 minutes (i.e. no sweating beforehand), but you will probably end up with a bit of water at the bottom of the moussaka. The other option is to broil/grill it until brown on both sides. You will need to do this in 2 batches i.e. one tray at a time. There are also recipes that fry the eggplant in oil. I've never done this.


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