In this recipe series, we bring you recipes by Julia Toon, culinary motivator and author of the book ‘Good Eating: A Taste of Qatar’. New recipes every week,
straight from Jules of the Kitchen.
Moussaka – Traditional Greek moussaka with a healthy twist.
Many moons ago I had the great pleasure of working on the island of Mykonos, a particularly fashionable Greek island, located in the Cycladic region of the beautiful Aegean Sea, lying between Tinos, Syros, Paros and Naxos.
Upon arrival the very first dish I remember I had to find out more about was one of Greece’s most famous, traditional dishes; the MOUSSAKA – a wonderful dish made up of sliced eggplants (aubergines) baked with a ground beef sauce and then smothered in a thin white sauce.
Every island, every village and every Greek family to be precise will have their recipe for this national favourite, and today I share with you the one I was taught, however, with a small yet significant ‘health’ change.
My earlier recipe (and of course, respectfully a very traditional method) called for the aubergines to be pre-pan fried in oodles of wonderful extra virgin olive oil before assembling the layers, however, recognising the call to eat more healthily, I have removed this as believe unnecessary and ask you all to try the alternative ‘oven bake’ method (uses way less oil and works a treat).
Finally, I also like to add boiled potato to my moussaka, to balance out the richness of the meat, eggplant and cheese sauce, but this is my preference, if not to your liking do please omit.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 mins + final 40 mins
Oven temperature: 180˚C
3 large aubergines – (eggplants) trimmed and thinly sliced
5 tbsp olive oil + extra for oiling the baking tray
1 large red onion – chopped
3 cloves of garlic – crushed
500g quality lean minced beef
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp dried oregano
2 medium bayleaves
1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
150ml of water – or red wine
1 capful of cider vinegar
Pinch of brown sugar – optional
A handful of chopped parsley – flat leaf or curly
3 x pre cooked boiled potatoes – peeled, cubed and cooked
3 tbsp of grated Kefalotyri cheese – or fresh parmesan for the topping
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste
Cheesy White Sauce
60g plain flour
500ml milk – low fat
2 medium organic eggs
60g grated Kefalotyri cheese – or fresh parmesan
Prepare and bake the aubergines
Wash, trim and slice all the aubergines into 1 cm length pieces.
Lightly oil one large or two flat baking trays, lay the aubergine slices on the trays, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake 25-30 minutes until soft and golden in the oven.
Make meat sauce
Add the minced beef and cook for a few minutes until browned all over. Add the cinnamon stick and dried oregano.
Now add the canned tomatoes, red wine (or water), vinegar and pinch of sugar, raise the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so – uncovered in order to thicken the meat sauce.
Make cheesy white sauce
Melt butter in a saucepan over a low heat and stir in the flour. Cook the paste for 1-2 minutes and then whisk in the milk a little at a time. Whisk smooth. Increase the heat and allow to come to the boil, stirring all the time.
Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly before add the eggs and grated cheese. Season to taste. Leave to one side.
Cover the base of the baking dish with a layer of cooked aubergine, top this with the meat sauce and repeat until all gone.
Final layer top with meat sauce and then a layer of the cheesy white sauce. Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.
This dish is delicious served hot with a good mixed green salad.
Jules tips: I used beef mince in this recipe but it is perfectly acceptable to use lamb mince, and if you are unable to get the traditional Greek Kefalotyri hard cheese, please use a strong flavoured white cheddar.
Contributed by: Julia Toon, Jules of the Kitchen
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