Katerina’s Moussaka

Moussaka is one of the most popular and most loved Greek dishes. It takes a while to make, so think of it as a weekend project. But the result will not disappoint. Layers of mellow vegetables are followed by a layer of beef mince, then more vegetables and finally a smooth béchamel sauce. It is a quintessentially summer dish, as aubergines and courgettes, they key ingredients, are in season – and at their best- then.

Following our delicious Olive Oil Mythologies dinner a few weeks ago, this is the recipe for moussaka, which we served as a main course. It is by Katerina, Nafsika’s mother. We have planned many more amazing dinner experiences after the summer, so watch this space for our autumn events!

This recipe serves 16, as in Greece we always make large quantities of moussaka. It freezes well if you want to make two trays. Simply place in the freezer before the final step of baking. You can also half the recipe, if you prefer.

Final advice: moussaka needs to rest after baking. So estimate at least 45 minutes of resting time before diving in. Trust us, the result is worth it!

Serves 16

Mince meat
2 medium red onions (approx. 300g)
6 tbsp olive oil
1kg beef mince, lean
1 cup water
2 tsp tomato puree
½ tsp sugar (optional)
1.5 bottles tomato passata (or 5 juicy tomatoes)
½ tsp cinnamon
salt, pepper (to taste)

Finely chop or grate the onions. In a medium-sized heavy bottomed pot add the olive oil and onions. Gently fry over medium heat until transluscent but not caramelised.
Add the mince and stir well, until the mince is broken down and has browned.
Add one cup of water and cook until the mince is tender, around 15minutes.
In a cup with warm water stir in the tomato puree and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
Add it to your pot, along with the tomato passata and stir well.
Season with cinnamon, salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the mince is tender and the sauce thickens, around 30-45 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Vegetables
2kg aubergines
1kg courgettes
1kg potatoes
1.5 cups olive oil
salt, pepper (to taste)

Preheat the oven at 180C.
Slice all the vegetables into 5mm / ½ cm slices.
Lay the vegetables in trays and brush the one side with olive oil.
Season with salt and pepper.
Bake at 180C until the vegetables are soft, around 20min.
Half-way through turn them over and brush the other side with olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Set aside to cool.

Béchamel sauce
225g butter
225g flour
3lt milk
10 eggs
750g kefalotyri cheese

In a medium-sized heavy bottomed pot and over low heat add the flour and butter. Whisk together until golden. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. You can test by covering the back of a spoon with the sauce, and running your finger through it. The line should remain clear. Remove from the heat and whisk in the nutmeg, salt, pepper, eggs and cheese. Set aside, covering tight with cling film. The cling film should touch the surface of the sauce.

Assembling
Preheat the oven at 180C.
Brush the bottom of a large baking tray with a bit of olive oil (2 tbsp). Layer half the aubergines, followed by courgettes and potatoes. Add the mince. Continue with another layer of aubergines. Top with the béchamel sauce.
Bake at 180C until the béchamel sauce is golden and the moussaka is bubbly, 20-30min.
Let the moussaka rest for at least 45 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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