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.
2 large aubergines, cut into ¼” / ¾ cm thick slices
1 Tbsp olive oil
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)
4 tbsp butter
5 tbsp plain flour
3 cups milk
¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
⅓ cup panko or fresh breadcrumbs
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.
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.
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.
Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, using a whisk to keep it moving.
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.
Remove from the stove and whisk in cheese. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then whisk the eggs in.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 180C.
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.
Pour over the béchamel sauce, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a little extra grated cheese and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.
This is a classic recipe for lasagne. No fancy adages or variations but a hearty, warming and delicious crowd pleaser.
This lasagne is a big one. It serves eight so you’ll need a big oven dish or you could divide it into smaller dishes and freeze what you don’t want for another night. If cooking from frozen, cook at 180C for 90-120 minutes, depending on the size of your dish, until the lasagne is piping hot, brown and bubbling.
For the meat sauce:
3 tbsp olive oil
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
500g pack beef mince (I used extra lean)
500g pack pork mince or British veal mince
2 x 500g cartons passata
2 bay leaves
1 rosemary sprig
2 thyme sprigs
2 tsp dried oregano
2 beef stock cubes
500ml red wine
Salt and pepper
about 400g dried pasta sheets
50g parmesan, finely grated
For the béchamel sauce:
2 Litres full fat UHT milk
1 onion, thickly sliced
3 bay leaves
75g plain flour
good grating of nutmeg
First infuse the milk for the béchamel sauce. Put the milk, onion, bay and cloves into a large saucepan and bring very gently just up to the boil. Turn off the heat and set aside for 1 hr to infuse.
For the meat sauce, put the oil, celery, onion, carrot, garlic and pancetta in another large saucepan. Gently cook together until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Remove the vegetables to a large bowl and brown the mince in batches in the same pan. Set each batch aside with the vegetables as you go. Tip all the vegetables and mince back into the pan and add the passata. Using a wooden spoon, stir together well then stir in all the herbs, the stock cubes and wine and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to stop the bottom catching. Cook until the meat is tender and saucy. Taste and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
To finish the béchamel, strain the milk through a fine sieve into a large jug. Melt the butter in the same pan then, using a whisk, mix in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the strained milk, a little at a time – the mix will thicken at first to a doughy paste, but keep going, adding milk gradually to avoid lumps. When all the milk is added, bring to a gentle simmer, whisking constantly. Gently bubble for a few minutes until thickened. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg.
Heat oven to 180C. Spread a spoonful of the meat sauce over the base of a roughly 3.5 litre baking dish or do as I did and make two dishes for four people and store one in the freezer after assembly. Cover with a single layer of pasta sheets, snapping them to fit if needed, then top with a quarter of the béchamel. Spoon over a third of the meat sauce and scatter over a little Parmesan. Repeat the layers – pasta, béchamel, meat and Parmesan – two more times to use all the meat sauce. Add a final layer of pasta, the last of the béchamel and remaining Parmesan. Sit the dish on a baking tray to catch spills and bake for 1 hr until bubbling, browned and crisp on top.
Remove the lasagne from the oven and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes to firm up a little. This makes it much easier to dish up and you won’t burn the roof of your mouth off. Serve this with a light side salad. I used spinach and tomato. And of course, no lasagne is ever really complete without a chunk of garlic bread and a cheeky glass of red wine!