This is my moussaka recipe which feels nostalgic as I threw one of these together on the morning of my operation and then froze it for when I came home. I can make it on automatic pilot. Cooking the aubergines in the oven means that they don’t soak up lots of oil and you don’t have to stand to watch and turn them. It’s also a quicker custardy topping made with ricotta, eggs and Parmesan. The sauce is quite vegetable intensive, and I generally make it with beef and not lamb because that’s the way we like it. You could add some cinnamon or cumin if you felt like it.
For a vegetarian lentil version, add 150g Puy type lentils instead of the mince and 400ml more stock.
400g beef mince 10 per cent fat
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot or 2 small, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
One large tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
1 bay leaf
Few sprigs fresh thyme or half tsp dried thyme
200ml beef stock made with a little pot or a cube
150ml red wine (optional) or use more water
250g ricotta, a standard sized tub
75g Parmesan or Gran Padano or ‘Italian fine cheese’ finely grated
- Heat a tbsp light olive oil in a casserole dish and cook the onion, carrot, and celery gently together in a pan until soft but not coloured (about 7 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another three minutes.
- Brown the mince in a separate pan and then add to the vegetables with the tomato puree, thyme, bayleaf, wine and stock and simmer for at least 30 -40 mins and up to an hour.
- Drizzle two baking trays with a light olive oil and spread the aubergines in the tray, and then sprinkle with more oil and season.
- Cook in oven 180C, gas mark 4 for 30-40 mins, turning the aubergines over half way through until they are golden brown and really soft.
- Make the topping by mixing the ricotta, eggs, a grating of nutmeg, salt and pepper, and half the grated cheese.
- Put half the mince mixture into an ovenproof dish, then cover with a layer of aubergines. Then repeat the process. Spread over the topping, the sliced mozzarella and top with the remaining cheese.
- Cook at 180C, gas mark 4 for 30 mins until the top is nicely golden. If you are cooking it straight from the fridge, it may need longer. Sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan cheese.
It tastes far nicer than it looks in this picture which I didn’t style but just took at the table before we ate it.
Serve it with a simple salad and rice or pasta. I used orzo here because everyone was clamouring to eat.