Moussaka (the stress is on the last syllable) is a usually a baked lamb and eggplant casserole covered with a thick layer of bechamel sauce and grated cheese that becomes crusty and golden brown when baked. It can be made with other ingredients besides lamb and eggplant, using beef, or vegetables such as zucchini or potatoes. Moussaka is the best known of all Greek foods. They believe that Moussaka was introduced when the Arabs brought the eggplant to what is now modern day Turkey. The Arabs however, especially in Lebanon, think of it as a Greek dish. The most delicious Moussaka in my opinion is that created by the Cypriots which is the recipe I most often use.
No one knows what the origin of Moussaka is but there is a recipe from the thirteenth- century Arabic cookbook known as the Baghdad cookery book which is proposed by one food historian as the ancestor of Moussaka.
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
2 large Eggplant or zucchini, or a mixture of both (peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise)
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced widthwise
1/2 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1lb ground beef, lamb or pork
2 large tomatoes, grated, or 14 oz canned tomatoes
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon or a piece of cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup red wine
4 tbsp. butter
4 rounded tbsp. flour
Black Pepper to taste
4 cups boiling milk
1/4 cup of hard cheese grated (I like Asiago) for gratiné
Fry the slices of eggplant/zucchini and potato in hot oil, or for a lighter version brush each slice with olive oil and grill under broiler turning them so that they brown on both sides; when 3/4 cooked, transfer to paper towels to drain.
Fry the onion in olive oil; add meat and mix well.
Add the tomatoes, herbs, spices, seasoning and wine; simmer for 25 minutes until the liquid has been completely absorbed.
Make a roux: melt butter in a saucepan, add flour and gradually whisk in the hot milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.
Season with pepper.
When the milk comes to a boil, reduce the heat and continue cooking for a few minutes, stirring with a whisk or spatula.
Turn off heat, whisk in the eggs one at a time.
Assembly and cooking
In a 10″ baking dish, place a first layer of potatoes.
Top with a layer of eggplant. (and zucchini if using)
Spread ground meat mixture on top in a single layer.
Cover with another layer of potatoes and a layer of eggplant/zucchini.
Top with the white sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese.
Bake for 50 minutes or until the surface is browned and crispy.
Will yield 6 to 8 servings
FOOTNOTE: Moussaka is a delicious alternative to lasagna and equally as fattening. Don’t let the vegetables in there fool you.