I’ve always found the idea of Moussaka a bit scary — it seems so labour intensive and I admit I cast it in the same pot as lasagna — something busy people have no time for!
However, a customer in the store recently suggested it’s a perfect Locavore meal — and so it is! It makes excellent use of the prolific eggplants in season at the moment, and along with good quality mince and some local goat cheese can be made with primarily local ingredients, and can be gluten free! It’s also a perfect dish to make and freeze into meal-size portions, so it’s worth the effort — at least during eggplant season.
I tackled the recipe in four parts. Prepping the eggplant, making the mince, the dreaded béchamel sauce then assembly and baking. I cooked the eggplant on a sandwich press — a fabulous time saver — and I made extra for salads.
4 x eggplant
1 bunch of spinach
2 tbsp olive oil
1 x onion
500 g beef mince ( lamb is traditional)
200 ml passata (or two cups of blitzed tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic
splash of wine * optional
salt and pepper
60 g butter
5 tbsp plain flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated (optional)
1/2 cup hard cheese, grated (I used Local Goat farmhouse)
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
Part 1 - Veggies
Slice the eggplant into 2 cm slices. I like to do it crossways so it makes circles. Lay out on the on bench and sprinkle generously with salt. Allow to sweat for at least half an hour — moisture droplets will form on on top and you can blot them with a paper towel.
Then grill the slices on a sandwich press or fry them in a frying pan.
When lightly brown, remove and set aside to cool. If making extra store in a container and douse with olive oil.
I also fried up a bunch of chopped spinach. Lots of traditional recipes use sliced potato too. You can easily add a layer of whatever veggies you have on hand.
Part 2 - Meat Sauce
Finely chop onion and garlic and saute in a large frying pan with some oil. Add mince, breaking it up with a fork so it evenly cooks. Add a splash of wine then cook it out before adding the passata or blitzed tomatoes. Simmer on low until the sauce is nice and thick.
Part 3 - Béchamel sauce
Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute until it forms a paste or roux, stirring constantly. I like to use a wooden spoon or spatula for this.
Warm the milk a little in the microwave to take the chill off, then slowly add to the roux. Stir regularly for 3 to 5 minutes or until it thickens nicely.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the grated cheese, seasoning well with salt and pepper.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then whisk the eggs in. Cover with lid until required. *Note the egg step can be skipped although it does help to make it set and hold nicely later on.
Part 4 - Assembly
Line the baking dish you plan to use with a sheet of baking paper. I used a 25 x 25 cm casserole dish.
Arrange the eggplant slices first along the base. Squish together so it makes a solid layer. Then spoon over the meat sauce in a 1 cm layer. Layer again with eggplant and meat. Finish with the spinach layer then the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for 30-40 min at 180 C or until golden brown on top.