Comfort foods get their name for a reason – they tend to be really warming dishes and be filled with things that make us feel warm and fuzzy. Cheese is often in there, as is pasta. I suspect the texture helps; things that are creamy and easy to eat are no doubt easier to feel affection for. I think sometimes dishes that take a little longer to make can also have a similar place in our hearts as you appreciate the effort, so think when you have something that is both! For our family, moussaka is definitely up there as a comfort food, and I admit it takes a little longer to make, but it is so worth it and something we really enjoy a few times over the colder weather. For those not familiar, it is kind of like a lamb-meat lasagna but with eggplant/aubergine instead of pasta. It has that fantastic mix of a flavorful, tomatoey-meat sauce, a smooth cheesy sauce and eggplant/aubergine that just melt into it all. A delicious dish, and so ideal to bring to the second part of Fiesta Friday‘s anniversary party.
True, as I said and as you will see, it is not the quickest thing to make but a large part of that is time just left in the oven, and there’s not anything that is really complicated. It is also made a bit longer by the fact you really do need to give the eggplant/aubergine a pre-cook and that, along with making the meat filling and cheese sauce takes a bit of time. However, it is most definitely worth it and you can make things easier for yourself. I often use two pans to cook the eggplant/aubergine to speed things up, and cook the meat at the same time. The one thing is the cheese sauce is best left to the end so it doesn’t develop a skin as it cools.
Additionally, you can easily make it up to where you put it in the oven a good few hours before (if not the day before if you refrigerate), then give it the final cook. Also, I always make a large batch to do at least two meals. It will reheat in the oven (approx 30min at 350F/175C) without being much different from the first time, apart from the cheese sauce being a little less runny. It will also freeze and re-heat in the microwave (although often less evenly, so you might need to break it up, but even looking less pretty it tastes as good!).
As I say, this is a wonderfully comforting meal with rich, delicious flavors of lamb, smooth soft eggplant/aubergine and creamy, cheesiness that all comes together in each bite but also are separately distinguishable. Nothing is too strong, just delicious. For my toddler son, I make some couscous or rice and mix some of the moussaka through, breaking up the eggplant/aubergine and he loves it. We all do, and sometimes it’s difficult to make it last a few meals rather than us just pigging out. I suspect the recipe has lost some of it’s authenticity as I have made and adapted over the years, but nonetheless it’s fantastic and I hope you’ll give it a try and enjoy it as much as we do.
- 2 large eggplant/aubergine
- olive oil for frying
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 2lb/900g ground lamb/lamb mince
- 1x 26.46oz/750g carton of chopped tomatoes - I prefer finely chopped
- 1 tbsb mixed herbs
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp/25g butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1¼ cups/300ml milk
- 1⅓ cups/100g grated hard cheese - suggest Jarlesberg
- 1 egg
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
- Slice the eggplant/aubergine in around ½in/1cm slices and lay out flat. Sprinkle with a little salt and leave a couple minutes (don't be tempted to skip - it does help draw out any bitterness and apparently stop them absorbing as much oil).
- Heat a little olive oil in a skillet/frying pan over a medium-high heat. Dry the slices of eggplant/aubergine and brush off the salt. Fry the eggplant/aubergine slices in batches until gently browned on each side. Don't be tempted to use too much oil - just enough to stop them sticking. When cooked, put to one side. If they are oily, dry on paper towel (you can also put oilier ones on top off other slices you are cooking and some will drain out to help those ones not stick when you turn over).
- Heat the tbsp oil in another pan over a medium heat. Dice the onion and add to he pan. Dice the garlic small and add as well.
- Cook the onions and garlic for around 5 minutes until soft but not browning then add the lamb.
- Brown the lamb - you may need to turn up the heat a bit - until it is all cooked then add the tomatoes, herbs and some salt and pepper. Stir well and set aside.
- In another pan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the flour and stir well, cooking until it starts to become slightly nutty, a minute or two.
- Turn the heat down a little and add the milk gradually, stirring in well as you go, around ½ cup at a time, pressing any lumps to the side of the pan to remove. Don't worry if still a couple.
- Add the majority of the cheese (keep back a couple handfuls) and mix through so it melts. Remove from the heat, add the egg and whisk it through.
- Start layering up your dish in a large oven dish - put half the meat mixture on the bottom, followed by half the eggplant/aubergine slices covering, overlapping slightly, then some sauce. Use roughly half the sauce but a little less as you want more on top if anything.
- Then gently spread out the rest of the lamb on top, followed by the remaining eggplant/aubergine in a layer and finally the last of the sauce. Sprinkle the cheese you kept back over the top.
- Bake for approx 40mins until golden brown on the top.