Moussaka

My favourite food for a while as a child. This recipe is very similar to the way my dad makes it with a few small alterations. Serve with just a salad and some crusty bread (which you can warm in the oven after you take the moussaka out) if you like.

Ingredients

Meat sauce:

Béchamel sauce:

Directions

First, cut the aubergines into slices about a centimetre thick. Sprinkle salt liberally over each side of each slice, piling them all up unevenly (to allow moisture to drain easily) in a large bowl, or in a colander over the sink. Leave for about half an hour.

Meanwhile, boil a large pot of salted water. Peel the potatoes and slice at a similar thickness to the aubergines. Parboil the potatoes for five minutes, until they’ve lost the slick feel of freshly cut raw potato, but they haven’t yet softened. Drain and set aside.

Fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring. Add the mince and cook until it’s lightly browned all over. Chop the mushrooms, shred the basil leaves by hand, and add to the pot. Scrape the blade of a serated knife down the length of the courgettes, distressing the skins but not removing the skin altogether. Then top and tail them and chop into small slices. Add them to the pot with the lamb and the other vegetables. Remove the core of the red pepper, slice into thin strips and put them in too. Cook for another few minutes and then stir in the passata. Cover and allow to simmer.

Drain the aubergines. In batches, shallow-fry the slices in a large frying pan, using just enough oil with each batch to fry the slices. They will absorb plenty of oil so be careful: you can make the dish greasy if you use too much.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees Celcius. Melt the butter in another pan. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Begin adding the milk in small splashes, stirring continuously to avoid the sauce thickening. You want to end up with a reasonably thick but easily pourable Béchamel sauce. Remove from the heat, sprinkle in the nutmeg, pinch of salt and the parsley, finely chopped, and stir through.

In a large roasting tin, place a single layer of potatoes. Spoon over a thin layer of the meat sauce. Then a layer of the aubergines. Repeat until all potatoes, aubergines and the meat sauce is in the tin.

Grate the Parmesan (or Pecorino) over the mixture in the tin to form a thin layer. Then pour the Béchamel sauce carefully across the top to cover. Sprinkle the paprika unevenly across the moussaka.

Finally, beat the egg and spread it over the surface (use a brush to get it as even as you can without disturbing the Béchamel sauce). Place into the oven and bake for about half an hour (or until the top is golden).