Moussaka has many guises. The Greek layer theirs with minced lamb and aubergines, the Turkish sauté theirs with green peppers and tomatoes. The Balkans also have a version using potatoes and pork mince.
This recipe is a really lovely twist on the classic Greek moussaka. Of course there is something to be said for staying true to tradition, and there is a certain home comfort to having a dish of moussaka in the oven, layered and bubbling away.
However, there is also something rather charming about making individual portions instead of one large dish – and turning the recipe inside out, somewhat.
I recently made this dish for my boyfriend’s brother and wife who have just had a gorgeous baby boy, Sebastian. Comforting, filling and packed with Mediterranean flavours and gently warming spices – ideal for giving those new parents enough energy to be up all night (plus leftovers for the day after!)
This dish is adapted from a Delia recipe and I must admit my changes have veered it even further away from its origins (beef instead of lamb, the addition of puy lentils). Don’t let this put you off -it’s delicious and sure to be a favourite as the weather turns ever colder.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic
500g beef mince (or lamb if you prefer)
400g tin puy lentils
Bunch of fresh mint
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
140g tomato purée
150ml red wine
275ml whole milk
25g plain flour
Grating of fresh nutmeg
Freshly grated Parmesan
Finely chop the onions and garlic. Heat the oil in a large heavy based pan and fry the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes.
After that, turn the heat up to high, add the minced beef and brown it for a few minutes, turning and keeping it on the move, then chop the reserved aubergine flesh roughly and add this to the pan. Now cook it all down for about 10 minutes, stirring to stop it from catching.
Meanwhile, in a jug mix the mint (finely chopped), cinnamon, tomato purée and red wine. Pour over the meat, along with the puy lentils and seasoning, and leave it softly bubbling for about 45 minutes.
Next prepare the topping. Place the milk, flour, butter and grated nutmeg in a saucepan and, using a whisk, beat until it comes up to simmering point and becomes a smooth, glossy paste. Remove it from the heat, pour it into a bowl and let it cool a little before whisking in the ricotta, followed by the egg, beaten. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 170C. Lightly oil the skin and inside surface of each aubergine half and place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet, putting them side by side to fit quite closely.
Divide the filling equally between the aubergines, then place the baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven and bake them for 1 hour, until they’re soft and browned.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven, increase the temperature to 190C, then divide the sauce between the aubergines, spooning it on and spreading it over the meat.
Sprinkle with the Parmesan then return them to the oven and bake for another 25 minutes or so until puffed up and golden brown.
Service with a crisp green salad and garlic bread.
- Serves 4-8