Chef Peter Conistis of Sydney's Civic Dining talks about Greek cuisine.

How has your heritage influenced your cooking?

It's the cuisine I've always cooked. I’ve always cooked my interpretation of "modern Greek" food based on the indigenous produce of Greece and reinterpreted the classic dishes I grew up with.

Why is this dish representative of Greek food/cuisine?

Moussaka is practically the national dish of Greece. The dish originated in Turkey as a lamb and eggplant braise, which was then reworked by the Greek chef Tselementes and became the dish it is today. The classic version is still prepared almost the same way wherever you go in Greece.

How closely will you be following the World Cup?

It'll be hard to get much sleep at my place during the World Cup so I guess I'll be watching quite a few of the games"¦ especially the ones played by both Greece and/or Australia.

Is food or football more important to Greek people?

That's a hard one to answer as they're passionate for both!

If you could cook a meal for one of your nation's football heroes, past or present, who would it be and why?

Giorgios Karagounis. Greece's national soccer team captain and their greatest midfielder who scored the first goal of the tournament against Portugal and helped win the EUFA Euro cup in 2004 for Greece.

This interview is part of a series on chefs representing each of the countries in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. More interviews.

Serves
12

Preparation

35min

Cooking

2hr
30min

Skill level

Mid
By
Average: 3.6 (66 votes)
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Ingredients

  • 1 kg Desiree potatoes 
  • 3 large eggplant 
  • extra virgin olive oil 
  • sea salt 
  • 100 g kefalotyri cheese, grated

 

Braised lamb 

  • 60 ml extra virgin olive oil 
  • 750 g lamb mince 
  • 500 g lamb shoulder, boneless and finely diced 
  • 2 brown onions, finely diced 
  • 2 celery stalks finely diced 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp dried chili flakes 
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon 
  • ½ tsp ground all spice 
  • 1 tsp dried Greek oregano 
  • ½ tsp dried mint 
  • 2 tsp sea salt 
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 250ml red wine 
  • 500 ml tomato puree 
  • 500 ml chicken stock

 

Ricotta cream layer

  • 500 g fresh ricotta cheese
  • 125 g kefalotyri cheese, grated
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 500 ml cream
  • 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp dried Greek oregano

Cook's notes

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.

Instructions

To make the braised lamb. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Brown mince and diced lamb, remove from pan and reserve.

Leave the oil in pan and over a medium heat, cook onion, celery and garlic until translucent. Return lamb to pan and the herbs and spices.

Cook for 1 minute then add wine. Cook until wine is reduced by half. Add tomato puree and stock and simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Set aside and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Peel and slice potatoes 1cm thick. Layer into a 30cm x 40cm baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Bake 15 minutes.

Slice eggplant 1cm thick. Place on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Bake for 15 minutes until lightly golden.

Spread lamb filling over partially baked potato layer. Cover with baked eggplant slices. Combine all the ingredients for the ricotta cream then spread over the eggplant layer. Sprinkle over the kafalotyri cheese and bake for 40-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown.