Moussaka

INGREDIENTS for a large deep roasting tray, measuring 30 x 34cm (feeds 6-8)
  • 2kg of aubergines, sliced into 1 cm slices
  • 3-4 large potatoes, cut into 0.5 rounds
  • 1 kg of lean beef mince
  • 500ml tomato passata or 1 kg of fresh tomatoes grated
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 allspice
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • salt, pepper, olive oil

For the bechamel:

  • 200g butter
  • 200g flour
  • 1.7- 2lt full fat milk
  • salt

DIRECTIONS
  1. Cut the aubergines in round slices of 1cm thickness. Rub them well with salt and let them drain for an hour. Rinse under running water and dry them with a kitchen towel. This will ensure that they won’t be bitter. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper and spread them evenly, so that they do not overlap. Brush each slice liberally with olive oil on both sides and roast for 20 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 C. I have a convection oven so I can bake two tins at once, saving loads of time. Repeat until you have roasted all of the aubergines. You can store them in the fridge in an airtight container for a couple of days, so make them in advance.
  2. To make the minced meat heat 4-5 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot and saute the onions until translucent. Add the mince and stir continuously until it has totally changed colour (from red to grey), making sure that there are no large lumps. Pour in the wine and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes so that all the alcohol will evaporate. Finally add the tomatoes and spices and cook over medium heat for about half an hour. The mince should not be completely dry, but neither very watery. You might also find that it needs more olive oil which you can add in the end as it will cook again in the oven. Remove the bay leaf and allspice berries, season well and store until needed. You can make this a day in advance.
  3. Make the bechamel sauce: melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour whisking constantly with an eggbeater. Slowly pour the milk (if the milk is hot, there is less danger for your sauce to lump) and continue whisking to avoid lumps. Once the bechamel has thickened (this can take anything from 10-20 minutes) remove the sauce pan from the heat. We need a thick bechamel, so start with less milk (1.7lt). You can easily thin it by adding more milk. To avoid lumping immediately transfer the sauce to a clean bowl. If it does lump however, there is nothing to worry about. You can pass the sauce through a fine sieve or process in the blender until smooth. Season with some salt but not too much and store in the fridge for a couple of days until needed. To avoid a “skin” forming on your bechamel just cover the whole surface with cling film (making sure it touches the surface.
  4. Fry the potatoes. In a deep pan heat about 1lt of vegetable oil over high heat. Once it gets hot enough reduce the meat to medium and add the potatoes in batches trying not to overcrowd them. Fry until the potatoes are cooked (and are soft inside). Time depends on variety and on how thick you have cut them. Place each cooked batch over kitchen paper to absorb extra oil.
  5. To assemble: lay the potatoes over the bottom of your dish. I usually overlap them and eat any left overs :-). Place half the aubergines on top and season well. You can also brush them with some more olive oil. Carefully spread the mince meat over them and finish with the rest of the aubergines (season again). Pour the bechamel over the aubergines making sure that everything is well covered.
  6. Bake the moussaka in an 180 oC oven for about 1 hour or until golden on top. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing, otherwise you will end up with very messy looking pieces.
  7. Moussaka keep well in the fridge and actually improves the next day. It also freezes well, so it is better to make more than less.

Recipe taken from here.