Moussaka

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moussaka 18/05/2017

A good moussaka is a joy to behold with cinnamon spiced lamb mingling with aubergines and a delicious creamy sauce. It is something I’ve always wanted to make but never have until my friends and I decided to have a Greek night. Perfect chance. I don’t know why I’ve not made one before. It’s extremely comforting and flavourful and well worth the effort.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

Aubergine:

  • 2 large aubergines, cut into ¼” / ¾ cm thick slices
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Filling:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 500 g lamb mince
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp plain flour
  • 400g tinned plum tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 cup chicken or lamb broth/stock, or water + 1 stock cube
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp allspice (optional)
  • Lemon zest and juice (optional)

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 5 tbsp plain flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • Topping:
  • ⅓ cup panko or fresh breadcrumbs

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Method:

Aubergine:

  1. Sprinkle the aubergines with salt and place them (stacked) in a large colander. Leave to sweat for 30 minutes, then brush off excess salt and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Preheat oven to 200C. Lay the aubergine 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 pan over medium high heat then cook the garlic and onion for 3 minutes. Add the lamb and cook, using the wooden spoon to break up the mince as you go. Add the flour and herbs and stir. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, then cover, lower heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.

Béchamel 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. 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.
  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.
  2. Place half the filling in the bottom of a baking dish then half of the aubergine in a layer on top. Repeat the process with the remaining filling and aubergine.
  3. Pour over the béchamel sauce, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a little extra grated cheese and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Lamb Kleftico

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Screenshot_2017-04-16-21-36-14-1[1] 17/04/2017

Amazingly tender, pull apart lamb is slow roasted together with potatoes and onion that absorb all the wonderful marinade and meat juices as they cook.

Ingredients:

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp. roughly chopped oregano
  • 1 tbsp. roughly choppedrosemary
  • zest 1lemon and juice of 2
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp.olive oil
  • 400ml chicken or lamb stock
  • 2kg leg of lamb
  • 1kg Desiree potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 or 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 5 bay leaves

Method:

  1. Crush together the garlic cloves and 1 tsp salt using a pestle and mortar. Add the herbs, lemon zest, cinnamon and some black pepper then stir through the olive oil. Using a sharp knife, create lots of holes all over the lamb, and rub in the paste, pushing it deep into the holes. Transfer the lamb to a large food bag, pour in the lemon juice and marinate overnight.
  2. The next day, take the lamb out of the fridge 2 hours before you want to cook it. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Lay 2 long pieces of baking parchment on top of 2 long pieces of foil – one widthways, the other lengthways to form a cross. Pop the potatoes in the centre of the parchment and toss with the remaining oil and some seasoning. Bring up the sides of the foil, then pour the marinade from the lamb over the potatoes and throw in the bay leaves. Pour the stock into the pan. Set the lamb on top of the potatoes and scrunch the foil together tightly to completely enclose the lamb. Lift into a roasting tin and roast in the oven for 4½ hrs until very tender.
  3. Remove tin from the oven and increase the temperature to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Unwrap the parcel and scrunch the foil and parchment under the rim of the tin, baste the lamb with the juices and return to the oven for a further 20 mins until browned. Remove the lamb from the tin, wrap in foil and rest.
  4. Drain most of the stock and juices from the pan. Set aside. Turn the potatoes over and return to the oven for 30 minutes to brown then season with salt. Serve the juices, meat and potatoes with a fresh salad.

Cypriot Flaounes

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screenshot_2016-10-16-17-09-30-11 16/10/2016

Traditionally, this is a celebratory cheese- and egg-stuffed pastry served up during Ramadan and Easter in Cyprus. These delicious snacks also make a hearty breakfast when served with olives, tomato and punchy Cypriot coffee.

Outside of Cyprus, these cheese breads are commonly called flaounes in Greek or pilavuna in Turkish. In BallisticBaker they are called heaven!

You need to make the bread dough first, that acts as a ‘bread pastry’ casing for the filling, of cheese, eggs and mint. Traditionally you would use Cypriot cheeses in the filling such as flaouna cheese and halloumi, but as it is hard to get flaouna cheese outside of Cyprus, I have offered alternatives of punchy parmesan and mature cheddar to deliver a big savoury flavour.

I hope you enjoy these little Cypriot pastries if you make them (which you need to). If you have a sweet tooth, you can also add sultanas to the filling but I prefer them completely savoury.

Makes 3-4

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 375g of strong white bread flour
  • 7g of fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 150-200ml of water, tepid, to mix

Filling:

  • 75g of cheddar, grated
  • 75g of halloumi, grated
  • 25g of Parmesan, grated
  • 1 tsp of plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp of dried mint or half bunch fresh mint, chopped finely
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 25g of sultanas, optional

Glaze:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • sesame seeds

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients, adding more water if the mixture is too dry. Knead for 10 minutes by hand on a lightly oiled work surface. Place the dough into a large bowl and cover with an oiled piece of cling film. Leave in warm place to rise for 1 hour.
  3. To make the filling, mix the egg with the remaining ingredients. Add a little of the egg you will be using for the glaze if needed – you don’t want the final mixture to be too runny. If you add the egg and it gets too runny, add more cheese and flour to compensate. The mixture should be stiff enough to roll into balls.
  4. Roll out the dough and cut into 3 or 4 pieces. Roll out each piece to a square or a round and place a ball of filling in the middle. Bring the corners up to almost cover the filling
  5. Brush the pastries with the beaten egg all over and sprinkle sesame seeds over the top and sides.
  6. Place the pastries on the baking tray and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, or until the pastries are well risen, dark golden brown and the filling has puffed up.
  7. Serve warm or cold; perfect for breakfast, brunch or lunch when sliced and served with olives, cheese and sliced tomatoes… and coffee!

I think these are best eaten about an hour after you’ve removed them from the oven. The bread is so fluffy and fresh and the filling is still slightly oozy. You can eat them cold or reheat in a warm oven for 10 minutes to refresh.