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A warming recipe for Autumn - Moussaka (with an aubergine/eggplant tip)

Tuesday 2 October 2012

When I was in Paphos earlier this year, I ate a lot of moussaka. I find it really hard to resist, whenever I see it on a menu. It just has everything. Aubergine falling apart, a rich bechamel sauce, a lot of cheese, and the spud. Which every dish needs.

I made this the other night for my friend, and it's the perfect food for coming into Autumn. Plus, as I said to her, you can cover anything in bechamel sauce and cheese and it'll be brilliant.

I'm sure my version isn't traditional, but it tastes amazing, if I do say so myself. I don't really a solid recipe, per se, but I did make a brilliant discovery when making it.

Some people can be put off my cooking with aubergines, mainly because all recipes tell you to do that shit where you cover them in salt to drain off the juices, for 30 minutes. I've only ever done this once, and it was a pain, and did nothing.

So don't bother with that.

The other off putting thing when frying off slices of aubergine is how bloody long it takes. Plus, they drink up oil like nobody's business. You can get through half a bottle of olive oil if you're unlucky. And aubergine smoke fills the kitchen.

When I decided to make moussaka, I thought that I'd try something different. Instead of frying off my slices, I laid them out in a baking tray, drizzled a little bit of oil over them, and put them in on a high heat.

When I took them out about 20 minutes later (slow oven) they were perfect! They didn't have the same look as fried aubergines, but they were bloody well cooked. If I were doing a marinated dish, or something where they'd be more visible, then I would go back to frying. But in a dish like this, you really don't have to. Same goes for aubergine parmesan.

Anyway, to the recipe! I'm afraid I'm not really one for measurements, which is why my cooking always looks so.... rustic. Yes, rustic. But really, this is very simple.


1 smallish onion
A good half pound of mince (something fatty, I think lamb is traditional but I used beef)
Jar of tomatoes
Tomato puree
Mixed herbs, or oregano/parsley
1 aubergine

See, I really wasn't kidding about measurements.

Start off by making a bolognese style sauce with your mince. You know, fry off an onion gently (I add the garlic right at the last minute so it doesn't burn) then cook off the mince. If you have a bit of red wine to hand, chuck in half a glass and cook it off at this stage. Then add the tomatoes, season, add the herbs and a squirt of tomato puree, and leave to simmer for a while, until the sauce is thick. You could add spices too, but that's not to my taste. A bit of cumin would be good.

If you don't have leftover spuds in the fridge (and really, I always do) then steam some now. I'd say around... 4 biggish ones? I dug the last from the garden, and got about 10 new potatoes, which worked perfectly. Don't overcook them - you don't want them to fall apart. It's really much easier with cold cooked potatoes. When they're cooled, slice them around 1cm thick.

Do the aubergine trick. Actually, do this first. Yes, go back to the start and do them now, then. And don't faff around with salting or frying, you'll just annoy me.

At some point, make a bechamel sauce. You know, big knob of butter, bit of flour, and then add milk bit by bit. I mean, google it. You don't need much.

Man, this is NOT a good recipe. I'm getting stressed out thinking about the kitchen panic if you were thick enough to follow this one.

OK, you have all your bits. So get a dish thing, and start off with a bit of bolognese in the bottom. Cover this with a layer of sliced potato, then white sauce, then aubergine. Repeat again (two layers will be enough) and then cover the top with a bit more white sauce. Then chuck a whole heap of grated cheese on top (I used cheddar and parmesan) and put in the oven for around 30 - 40 minutes.

I'm sorry. That recipe sounded easier in my head. You know what? Fuck it. Just go to Cyprus. Or use this actual recipe, which contradicts everything I've just said. And puts CINNAMON in. Bleugh! So does Hugh! Gross, guys. The Hairy Bikers make it a bit simpler... but again with the cinnamon! You know what? Feck the lot of them. Mine is best.

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