For my friends down South, it looks like winter is no longer coming and is in fact here (slash down there). It frightens me that Aucklanders have started donning tights and "winter clothes" while it still remains a balmy 18 to 20 degrees. I have a feeling my work colleagues are going to find my bare-legged behaviour come June very unnerving.
So in honour of the gloomier weather I have decided to treat you with a slightly more interesting but still comforting alternative to the well-loved lasagne.
Moussaka, a dish of Greek and general Mediterranean invention, comprises of a tomato based lamb mince filling in between layers of eggplant and smothered in a béchamel sauce. Oh and of course topped with cheese. The flavour profile is different from a lasange as it contains sweet spices such as cinnamon as well as using lamb instead of beef.
Like all famous national dishes there are of course hundreds of variations out there. I got this recipe from Ripe Recipes by Angela Redfern but I in turn made additions and altered it to my taste.
For those of you of the gluten free persuasion, substitute the wheat flour for a GF flour and all can enjoy.
Adapted from Ripe Recipes by Angela Redfern
400g lamb mince
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon chilli
½ teaspoon allspice
400g tin chopped tomatoes
¼ cup sultanas
2 tablespoons chopped mint leave
1 cup red wine
salt and pepper
Olive oil for brushing
1 large eggplant/aubergine or 2 smaller ones, sliced into 5mm slices
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon paprika
2 ½ cups trim milk
100g feta, crumbled
150g cottage cheese
salt and pepper
1 cup grated cheese (Mostly edam or similar but try adding a small amount of grated parmesan for the flavour)
Sauté the onions, garlic, celery and carrots softened. Add in the lamb mince and sprinkled over the cinnamon, allspice and chilli and then continue to sauce until the mince has browned.
Add in the tomatoes, sultanas, mint and red wine. Simmer for 20 minutes until the mix has thickened.
In the mean time, brush your slices of eggplant with olive oil , sprinkle with salt and grill at 200 degrees on a greased baking tray for 10 minutes either side.
Set the oven to 180 degrees on bake.
To make the béchamel sauce, first melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan over a medium heat. Add in the flour and paprika and stir to form a paste. Cook this paste for a couple of minutes before adding in the milk half a cup at a time. When you add the milk, stir it briskly to prevent lumps from forming and wait until it becomes thick again before adding the next instalment of milk. Once all the milk has been added and the sauce is nice and thick, stir through the feta and cottage cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Grease a 20x30cm deep baking dish. Pour half of the mince mixture into the bottom of the dish. Layer with half of the eggplant slices then pour over half of the béchamel sauce. Repeat with the rest of the mince, eggplant and sauce. Sprinkle over the grated cheeses.
Bake for 30 minutes until the cheese has turned a golden brown colour. Once removed from the oven, leave for 5-10 minutes so that it sets slightly which makes it easier to serve up. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.