Friday, March 25, 2011

Moussaka/It's all Greek and Greek to me.

Logically, I should be exploring/exploiting my heritage/roots, in a Kylie Kwong-esque way (who I have total respect for, by the way). I should be telling you how to make idi appams (String hoppers) and coconut-milk stew. Or at least do a post on how to make 13 different types of chutneys to accompany your idlis. Instead, I give you yet another Greek-style dish.

I'm not crazy. Hear me out.

I'm sure you can make vadais better than I can. And I bet you anything there's a good Idli-Dosai kadai within a ten minute radius of your house. Assuming you're in Chennai/Madras, of course. If not... I'll work on it another night? Tonight, it's Moussaka.

The only time I've had Moussaka in Madras was at Kryptos. If you've read the post, you might remember how I raved like a lunatic over it. Meat and cheese in a tomato-onion-garlic broth? You seriously didn't think I'd be Googling around for Moussaka recipes and shoving one into the oven very, very soon?

It's like Lasagne, only with zucchini and Aubergines/Eggplant/Huge-ass Brinjal instead of the pasta sheets. It's hard to top that argument. Another thing Moussaka has going for it is that it is very Veggie-friendly. You can make a show-stopping, centre-piece style dish without any meat. I doubt even hardcore carnivores would miss the meat too much.

That's how thick the zucchini/courgette should be cut if you want it to stand out in the dish and have a bit of a bite to it. Replace with more potato and aubergine if you can't track it down at the greengrocers'!

Salt the aubergine well and let it drain the bitter juices out. Not dehydrating these babies and roasting them prior to using them in the Moussaka would be disastrous!

 This recipe is relatively healthy; I don't fry the potato or aubergine. I also sneak in a little garam masala because having an Indian palate, I can't eat meat unless it's well-spiced and well-cooked. Old habits don't die, let alone hard or not.


Serves 6-8 hungry people.



3 medium-sized potatoes, parboiled.
2 aubergines, sliced 
1 zucchini, sliced
500 g lamb meat, minced (can substitute with veg or tofu) 
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
400 g tomato, pureed in the mixie
4 tbsp tomato paste or ketchup 
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala (yes, GARAM MASALA)
1 stick cinnamon
4-5 cloves
2 bay leaves
Olive oil, as required

For the bechamel
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp butter
750 ml milk 
1 tsp nutmeg 
2 egg yolks
A handful of grated parmesan cheese or crumbled feta.
Salt and pepper


1) Preheat the oven to 250° degrees centigrade.

2)Prepping the veggies:

Potatoes: Parboil for 15 minutes or so, so that it is cooked but not falling apart. Peel, cut into slices.
Brush with a little olive oil on both sides, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in an oven at 250 for 10-15 minutes.

Aubergines: Can be used peeled or not. Cut into slices. Salt them well and let it drain over a colander for 30 minutes. Discard the juice. Rinse the slices well. Pat dry with a kitchen towel or tissue. Brush with olive oil on both sides and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.

Zucchini: Slice and use.

3)For the meat filling:

In a hot pan, add the meat, little at a time, so it sears/sizzles the second it's put in the pan. Add a teaspoon olive oil if necessary.

When the meat is nicely browned, add the onions. Saute. When the onions are pinkish, add the garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes.

Add the tomato paste, mix well with the meat. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the tomato puree, mix well. Add the spices-bay leaves, cloves, cumin, cinnamon and garam masala(if using). Add salt and pepper, as per your taste. Mix until well combined.

Cook for 20-25 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally so that the bottom doesn't burn. Taste and adjust seasoning.

4)Bechamel sauce:

Heat the milk until warm, not boiling. Set aside. Bring another pan to heat. Add the butter. When melted, add the flour and stir.

Add the milk now to the roux and whisk until completely blended. Heat until the sauce is thick and bubbly. I used my Braun blender to get rid of the lumps.

Take the pan off the heat. Add the egg yolks, mix well.

Add salt, pepper, grated nutmeg and half the cheese.

5)Assembling the moussaka:

Layer the baking dish with half the potato slices.

Place on top, a layer of aubergine and zucchini slices.

Make a layer out of half the meat filling.

Place the remaining aubergine, zucchini and potato.

Add another layer of the meat sauce.

Finally, drown the whole thing with bechamel.

Sprinkle over the parmesan cheese.

6)Reduce the oven's temperature to 180 degrees centigrade. Bake the moussaka for 30 minutes. The top should be golden brown.

7)Take the moussaka out, and rest it at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Recipe source: loosely adapted from

The moussaka is eaten warm, not hot. The resting stage is important, as the spices need to meld together. This is one of the dishes that taste best the next day, when all the components have marinated well in the tomato-y goodness. Sort of like biryani.

Speaking of biryani, that is also something we don't make at home because it'll be an insult to the marvel that biryani is. I grew up eating a lot of biryani, though, so if I come across or manage to cook up great biryani, I promise to share it with you guys. You don't even have to keep it a secret.

No comments:

Post a Comment