Sunday, 16 September 2012

An alternative Saturday night dinner: Layered beef moussaka with an avocado, rocket and parmesan salad

Leaving to help my sister move yesterday I stupidly fell down my own stairs, totally ruining my chances of going to a friend's birthday party up in Laandon Taan. Very annoyed, so decided to put energy into cooking instead, albeit limping. Good thing my kitchen's not very big.

All the books tell you that moussaka should be topped with a bechamel sauce, and you're really supposed to make it with lamb. However, I had some beautiful beef mince bought from the local butchers, and wondered whether to make a lasagne - but being gluten-free this was a slightly stupid idea (sorry people but gluten-free pasta just ISN'T the same). I had also paid a visit to the local greengrocer earlier in the day and had some lovely big heavy aubergines - so a moussaka was the obvious choice. The problem is, I don't like moussaka. Well, not the way you're supposed to make it - all that gloopy bechamel sauce on the top of mince and aubergine. So I decided to make it like a lasagne, just substituting the pasta for aubergine.

It was absolutely gorgeous - seriously the best thing I've made in ages - the aubergine was thirsty and had drank the bechamel, creating lovely soft chewy cheesy layers. In the morning, the other half had said 'just cook, and follow your instincts... that's when it tastes amazing'. And he was right! So, here's the recipe.

Layered beef moussaka (serves 4)

Cut 2 aubergines into slices lengthways, sprinkle with salt and leave for half an hour, then rinse and dry off on kitchen roll. This helps to relieve the aubergines of some of their moisture and make the dish less oily. 

Make a ragu, just how you like it - I use 2 onions, 3 gloves of a garlic and a chili, and saute them in olive oil on a low heat until the onions have gone translucent. Add lots of cumin and cayenne pepper, a pound and a half of mince and brown, before adding 6 large fresh chopped tomatoes and a pinch of sugar to help, a pint of chicken stock, a splash of worcestershire sauce (gluten-free version obviously!), salt and pepper, and my secret ingredient, a big squirt of HP sauce. Season and leave to simmer for at least an hour, by which time the tomatoes will have broken up and incorporated themselves into the sauce and the mince will have soaked up the spices. 

Make a bechamel sauce (gluten-free version - melt a knob of butter and mix in a couple of tablespoons of rice flour to form a roux, then take off the heat and gradually add half a pint of milk, stirring all the time to ensure there's no lumps, then put back on the heat until it has thickened), then add in grated parmesan, leaving some to scatter on the top of the completed dish. 

Layer up a dish - first the ragu, then a layer of aubergines, then a thin layer of bechamel sauce. I made two layers but my dish was quite large, and I think it would probably be better with three layers in a smaller dish. End with a sprinkling of parmesan, black pepper and dried rosemary on the top. Cook in the oven at 200c for about 40 minutes.

I served mine with an avocado, rocket and parmesan salad, which balanced the hearty meat with fresh peppery flavours. 

Should have taken a picture of it in the dish just as it came out of the oven, it looked much more impressive... Ah well!

By the time I'd eaten my share and polished off three large glasses of red wine, my grump at having to stay in was over. Am trying to stay this way, so am not going to look at pictures on facebook of all my friends enjoying themselves... I'm not. I'm really really not...


  1. Let's hope you didn't try the stairs again after the wine... This moussaka sounds yummy. I prefer it to lasagne.

  2. Mmmmm! What a good idea .....
    No! Not the stair thing . The moussaka thing .