While moussaka is largely attributed to Greece, variations can also be found in Turkey, where it includes green capsicum, and Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia, where it is made with potatoes, pork and a yoghurt topping. Our moussaka recipe is a modern take on the Greek version, with slow-cooked shredded lamb instead of minced, and eggplant and béchamel sauce enriched with kefalograviera (hard, sheep’s-milk cheese).
185 ml (¾ cup) olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 rosemary sprig
1 cinnamon quill
1 tsp ground allspice
125 ml (½ cup) dry red wine
800 g can chopped tomatoes
1 ½ kg eggplant, cut into 5 mm slices
80 g butter, chopped
75 g (½ cup) plain flour
500 ml (2 cups) warmed milk
100 g kefalograviera (see note), grated
2 egg yolks
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
You will need a 22 cm square baking dish for this recipe.
Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Cook lamb, in 3 batches, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a bowl.
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in the same pan. Add onion, carrot and celery, and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook for a further 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes or until combined. Add herbs, spices, wine and tomato, and bring to the boil.
Return lamb to the pan and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1½ hours. Uncover and cook for a further hour or until lamb is tender.
Meanwhile, soak eggplant in water for 1 hour. Drain. Pat dry with paper towel.
Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook one-third of the eggplant for 3 minutes each side or until golden. Drain on paper towel. Repeat twice more with remaining oil and eggplant. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 200°C. To make béchamel, melt butter in a pan over high heat. Add flour and stir for 2 minutes or until mixture begins to bubble. Add milk, whisking continuously, for 3 minutes or until mixture comes to the boil. Remove from heat, add cheese and stir until melted. Stir in egg yolks and nutmeg. Season sauce and lamb with salt and pepper.
Using 2 forks, roughly shred lamb in pan and remove cinnamon. Place one-third of the eggplant in the base of a 22 cm square baking dish. Top with half of the lamb. Add half of the remaining eggplant, then the remaining lamb. Top with remaining eggplant and spread over béchamel. Bake moussaka for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve.
Kefalograviera is a hard Greek sheep’s-milk cheese from selected delis and specialist food shops.
Photography by Derek Swalwell