Mind Your Manners Moussaka

Greece. You couldn’t find a place in Europe with more history and culture. This is the birthplace of the founders of Western Civilisation. Philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. A region of temples and architecture, mathematics and sciences. The Greeks taught the Mediterranean aristocracy; Greeks during the Roman Empire were the crème de la crème of tutors and were the architects of the libraries of Alexandria. They were the creators of the theatre which gave way to western storytelling and evidently led to film and television in the modern age. 

But how does a Barbarian behave in the company of their civilised Greek neighbours? Do you use the napkin or the table cloth?  Can you find the correct fork to use with the entre or do you use your fingers? And let us not forget the embarrassing situation in India when the host said,

“Malai Kofta? Dhansak?”

… and you punched him. Yes, the words sounded obscene, but you were actually being offered a choice of two delicious curries. Or the time in Turkey where the hostess asked if you like the look of her “Baba Ganoush” and your reply ended with you being slapped and having a bowl of eggplant dip poured over your head.

So, be on your best behaviour and don your cleanest toga as I whip up my latest dish, The Culinary Barbarian’s, Mind Your Manners Moussaka.

moussaka

Ingredients:  

500g lamb mince

1 large onion, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

2 sticks celery, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

6 button mushrooms, finely diced

½ green capsicum, finely diced

½ red capsicum, finely diced

400g can crushed tomatoes

500ml stock (lamb, vegetable or chicken)

2 large eggplant, thinly sliced lengthways

Spray oil, or oil for brushing

1/3rd cup olive oil, additional

3 tbsp plain flour

500ml milk

2 cups grated cheddar

Pinch nutmeg

Pinch allspice

White pepper

Dried basil 

Lemon wedge to garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°cconventional/160° fan forced
  2. Spray or brush the eggplant slices with oil and fry off in a large frypan until browned and translucent. Set aside.
  3. In a large pot, over medium heat, with 3 tbsp of oil, sauté the onions, garlic, mushroom, celery, carrot and capsicum until translucent. Add the lamb, turn the heat to high and with a wooden spoon or spatula mix through till brown. Add the tomatoes and reduce until the tomatoes are slightly scorched. Pour in the stock to reconstitute, return to the boil. Add a couple of pinches of dried basil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the mixture reaches the consistency of a thick ragout.
  4. In a second saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil, add the flour and whisk to create a roux. Pour in the milk, and whisk constantly to until thick and creamy with no lumps. Sprinkle in 2/3rd of the cheese and whisk until smooth. Add a little more milk if consistency is too thick.

Construction:

  1. Arrange a sheet of baking paper along the base of a 15/10 oven pan. Place a layer of eggplant slices, overlapping slightly. Pour ½ of the ragout mixture over the eggplant and then arrange another layer of eggplant over the top. Pour in the remaining ragout and smooth with a spatula. Pour the cheese sauce over the ragout evenly and smooth off. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake until the cheese is browned.
  2. Serve with lemon wedges and your choice of sides.