Ready Steady Cooks Viral Antidote 18: Moussaka two ways

This one is for my mate John who offers me potatoes, parsnips and aubergine.  In return, I have a two-way offer here. A meat one and a vegetarian one.

For four servings:

Take two fat aubergines and slice lengthways into 1.5cm thick slices. Place in a bowl and season well with sea salt, black pepper and olive oil.  Pre-heat your oven to 200C then put some baking parchment on a baking tray and line up the oiled aubergine slices flat on the tray.  Cook in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes or until soft.

And maybe a bit crispy at the edges. Remove from the oven but leave on the tray to cool.

Meanwhile, slice two or three big potatoes and a couple of parsnips into chip sized lengths and boil in salted water until just cooked. Run cold water over them to stop them cooking and drain.

Meat version

If you want a meaty lasagne, and spread out 750g well seasoned mince onto the hot roasting tray on which you roasted the aubergine. (First removing the aubergine). Put the tray of mince into the oven and roast the mince for 20 minutes, turning it as it browns (this is a Tom Kerridge trick). Then drain the fat from the meat.

Now you can either make a good thick tomato sauce by frying onion, chilli flakes and garlic in olive oil till soft then throw in half a glass of wine and let it reduced, followed by two tins of chopped tomatoes and some herbs like oregano, rosemary, thyme and the meat Plus a flat teaspoon of cinnamon powder and simmer for a while till the liquid is reduced.  (Or just use two 250ml boxes or jars of Passata instead of tinned tomatoes).

Now start layering up.  Start with a little sauce in the bottom of a good deep dish. Then add a layer of aubergine then meat in sauce  – wait for it – then a single layer of potato and parsnip strips. Season with a little salt and black pepper.  Then carry on layering until you end with a meat layer.

I haven’t made that potato bit up.  When I worked nights in a nursing home my friend Cheryl – who was married to a Greek – she gave me the potato tip. I just added the parsnips because that’s what John has in his fridge.

The non-bechamel topping is the same for both meat and veggie options so I will do that at the end.

Vegetarian

For for the veggie option, make (or open a jar) the same sauce and pimp it up with the same herbs and add some chopped fresh spinach and/or chopped broccoli to it. check the seasoning.

As with the meat version, use a good deep dish and  layer the Moussaka in the same order, sauce, aubergine, potato and parsnip etc.

My cheat’s bechamel goes like this.  Take four eggs and half a pot of creme fraiche or full fat yogurt. Add a touch of English mustard, salt and pepper. Beat the eggs then beat into the crepe fraiche or yogurt. Add a handful of grated cheese. Any sort. Pour onto the top of the Moussaka.

Bake in the centre of the oven at 200c for a good 30 minutes. Put the dish on a baking tray in case it overflows.

The biggest and best tip is to WAIT for 15 minutes. there is a reason why Greek dishes are served at room temperature and it’s not just to do with the scorching sun!

Evening falls

Have a glass of wine and make a salad. 15 minutes later the temperature of the Moussaka will have reduced from molten to moderate and it will have firmed up so you can slice it rather than slop it onto the plate!  I am so good to you with these tips!!

Hope you enjoy it either way.