Greek Tales Part 2: Moussaka Masterclass!

>> Thursday, 17 June 2010

One of the things I really love about foreign towns and cities is the food markets. I’m filled with happiness by the accidental turn off the tourist trail, down a side-street and into a secret world of locals bustling about buying their weekly fresh produce.

Our food markets just don’t seem comparable. Whilst I will happily stroll around our farmers markets, there is something a little clinical (and overpriced) in contrast with the natural European markets. For them it feels like a way of life and for us it seems to be some kind of aspirational statement (which I’ll admit to buying into!).

In Greece, I wandered down a cobbled street on a quest to find our hastily parked car, and tripped into the hubbub of the street vendors. Men and women selling stalls upon stalls of fragrant fruit and vegetables bursting with sunshine and goodness. Glistening, pungent fish were piled high, only centimetres from the pavement with swathes of people pushing past, shopping trolleys overflowing with haggled bargains.

I think the best, comparable quality at home comes from vegetable box schemes. I can’t wait to have a garden where I can grow my own vegetables but until then, my street market happiness comes in a box! The seasonal selection of muddy, knobbly vegetables are so much more exciting than regulation-sized carrots and machine-washed potatoes from the supermarket. If you haven’t tried a veg box scheme before, it’s really fun and they often have good offers for first time purchasers (e.g. your first box free – no catch!). My favourite national suppliers are Riverford Organics and Abel & Cole, though you may be able to find some interesting regional providers too. Cost wise, if you eat a lot of vegetables at home, the price is equivalent to supermarkets. If you’re still on a mission to meet your three let alone five a day target though, it may seem expensive…..

Anyway, enough vegetable chat and onto the main course, the super recipe for Moussaka from the Melenos Lindos hotel. There is a link in my ramblings to be made however, with many of the ingredients in season now (i.e. likely to be in a veg box/on offer in the supermarket).

This moussaka was very different to the versions I’ve tried before. The flavours are more delicate and the whole dish is less ‘saucy’, but it’s all the better for it!

Serves 2

  • 200g best lean beef (optional - marinated for 4 hours in olive oil and herbs)
  • 2 beef tomatoes (1 finely chopped and 1 sliced)
  • 20g Parmesan
  • 25g plain flour (+ extra to use as coating)
  • 25g cornflour
  • 50ml light olive oil (+ extra to use for frying)
  • 500ml milk
  • 1 aubergine
  • ½ finely chopped onion
  • 20g feta
  • Selection of summer herbs
Step 1: Chop the beef into small pieces. Add to frying pan and brown. Add onion and tomato and cook for five mins on low heat. Put to one side.

Step 2: Remove lengthways 1cm sections of the peel from the aubergine (this will create a striped effect on the outside) and cut into ½ cm thick slices. Drop slices in bowl of cold water and then coat in flour. Lightly fry in hot oil for 2 mins on each side until golden. Remove and sit on kitchen towel to drain excess oil

Step 3: Add cornflour, plain flour and olive oil to large saucepan and create a roux. Keep stirring on low heat to cook out the flour. Gradually add the milk, whisking all the time (the lumps will go – just keeping adding & whisking!). When thickened stir through half of the Parmesan and 2 tbsp of chopped herbs.

Step 4: Use a small bowl to assemble dish. First, create a layer of tomatoes, add a sprinkling of the herbs and Parmesan and then add a layer of aubergine. Repeat with another layer of tomato, herbs, Parmesan and aubergine.

Step 5: Spoon the beef mixture on top and press firmly into dish

Step 6: Spoon béchamel sauce mixture on top, and a sprinkling of herbs and then another covering of sauce (you need to ensure herbs are slightly covered by sauce to prevent them burning)

Step 7: Place in the oven (160c) for 25 mins

Step 8: Sprinkle the feta over the top of the moussaka and return to the oven for another 5 minutes

….and there you have it! I’m looking forward to doubling up the recipe and making it for some friends soon. Also keen to see whether it tastes anywhere near as nice at home as it did when the professionals were involved!!

Next post will be the final Greek instalment, with a selection of meze recipes.

Helen x

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