I don’t know about you, but when I think of Moussaka, I think of the aubergines (or eggplant/brinjals as they’re also known) in it. I think that it’s going to be a mission to salt them, dry them and fry them before adding them to the Moussaka. That thought alone is enough to put me off doing it. The problem is though, that my husband would give his two front teeth for a good aubergine dish. So every now and then the guilt works just enough and I am willing to spend hours in the kitchen.
That was until last week when I knew my husband would love me just that little bit more if I made him Moussaka but I was so super lazy, so I really didn’t want all the schlep. I decided to just slice the aubergine, season them generously and place them in a hot oven to roast for 20 minutes. Not only did this add heaps of lovely roasty flavours, but also eliminated the whole salting and rinsing process.
Moussaka is also a really great winter meal and if you do some planning ahead, it can be the type of meal that you can throw together in 15 minutes. The ground beef mixture is very similar to a classic bolognese with the added addition of warming spices like cinnamon and cumin. If I didn’t have the luxury of starting our dinners early in the day, I would make a big pot of ‘bolognese’ on one day and split that mixture into different meals. You can also obviously freeze bolognese very well and just add the different herbs and spices after thawing it.
I served the Moussaka with a cucumber and red onion salad and roasted potato wedges but a simple salad would be just as delicious. But one thing I wouldn’t forget to serve it with (especially on a cold winter’s night) is a glass of red wine. Now, most of you know that I’m not really a big drinker and I hardly ever touch wine but a while ago the lovely people at Asara sent me a bottle of their 2007 Bell Tower and even though I was skeptical about it (as I am most wines), it was completely delicious. I can’t tell you about the ‘nose’ or the colour, all I can tell you is that it went really well with the rich and flavourful Moussaka. If you are after a good red wine, don’t hesitate if you find this in your local bottle store!
1kg beef mince (ground beef)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large leeks, washed and finely chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
4 celery stalks, washed and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tsp each ground cinnamon, cumin and paprika
1/2 tsp each ground nutmeg and cloves
1 tsp dried mint
1 tbsp dried oregano
2x400g tins tomatoes
2 tbsp (1 small tin) tomato paste
500ml beef stock (if you don’t have beef stock, add 2 tbsp bovril to 500ml boiling water)
4 large aubergines, sliced
2-3 tsp salt
500ml thick Greek yoghurt
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°c.
- In a large pot, fry the beef mince until browned. Remove from the pot and set aside.
- In the same pot fry the onion, leeks, carrots, celery and bay leaf until soft and fragrant.
- Add the garlic and fry for another 30 seconds before adding the spices and dried herbs.
- Fry for a minute before adding the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and the mince.
- Stir to combine and then add the beef stock.
- Lower the heat and cover. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. 5 minutes before you want to assemble the Moussaka, remove the lid and turn the heat up high and allow the liquid to reduce. You don’t want the mixture to be too saucy.
- Meanwhile, place the sliced aubergines on a large roasting tray and drizzle with approximately 3 tbsp olive oil. Season generously and place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the aubergines are roasted and have gone wrinkly.
- To assemble, place half of the mince mixture into a large, oven-proof roasting dish. Follow with the roasted aubergines and then the rest of the mince mixture.
- Combine the top layer ingredients and pour over the mince.
- Place in the oven and allow to bake for 20-25 minutes until the top layer is browned (the aromas in your kitchen will be drool-worthy, I promise).
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.