Moussaka

My husband loves eggplant (aubergine), but I don’t cope well with all the oil that is often associated with cooking it. My kids will also eat it, but only if the skin doesn’t cause them trouble by being stringy, so my moussaka recipe addresses both of those issues.

The moussaka dish I made here was a family version, but it’s easily converted to one that you’d present to friends, just by duplicating the layers, or adding a middle tomato sauce layer separated from the other layers with grilled aubergine to make a thicker dish. This moussaka (from the bottom up) is simply a layer of garlicky black olive and mushrooms; a layer of grilled (broiled) aubergine; and a layer of creamy white sauce. The strong flavor of the salty black olives and garlicky mushrooms contrasts well with the mild tasting white sauce; and the aubergine imparts body. I have also made moussaka with meetoo instead of the mushrooms, which went down well with my daughters.

Choose young fruit. Older eggplants will have developed seeds (which are brown and have a tough coat) and might even have developed a cavity in the center which leaves your slices with holes in the middle! Cut the stem end off the eggplant. Take a fork, and score the skin from stem end to flower end. Scoring eggplantThis makes it much easier to eat, but the skin still helps the eggplant to retain its integrity. Now slice the eggplant into 1/4″ thick rounds. Make them as even as possible so that they cook evenly. If you have a problem with bitter eggplant (not so common these days), you can taste a small raw piece. If there is any bitterness, then you should consider salting the slices before continuing. This not only draws out any bitter juices, but reduces the amount of oil needed for cooking. That’s got to be a good thing, right?

To salt the sliced eggplant, sprinkle about 1 tsp of salt evenly over all surfaces, and leave to drain in a large bowl for about 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally with a spoon. 2 or 3 tbsp of clear brown liquid will be released, and the eggplant will ‘relax’ and turn slightly brown. Rinse the eggplant under running water, and then carry on cooking as per the recipe.

DSC_0017

1 or 2 batches of white sauce
1 egg (omit for vegan version)
1 large or 2 small aubergines (eggplants), scored lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ slices
~2 tbsp olive oil for cooking the aubergine
1 tbsp vegan margarine or olive oil
1 1/2 lbs white mushrooms
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup black olives, halved
3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced

Make the white sauce and leave on one side to cool slightly.

Lightly oil a baking (cookie) sheet with olive oil (~1 tbsp). Place the eggplant slices on the baking sheet, and quickly use a pastry brush to lightly oil (~1 tbsp) the tops of the eggplant slices. Note that all oil will be almost instantly absorbed, so don’t try to leave an oil film on the surface.

DSC_0001Place the aubergine slices 4 or 5 inches under a hot broiler (grill), and cook until lightly browned. Turn over the slices, and return to the grill (broiler) again until lightly browned and softened.

Heat the margarine/ olive oil in a large frying pan, add the mushrooms, and sprinkle them with the salt. Saute until the mushrooms have softened and released their juices. Add the garlic and black olives to the mushrooms, and allow to warm through.

Beat the egg, if using, into the cooled white sauce.

In a medium sized lasagna dish (use individual serving dishes for vegan version, as the white sauce won’t set solid), make a layer of the mushrooms, cover with a layer of the grilled aubergine, followed by a layer of white sauce, smoothed over with the back of a spoon/spatula.

Cook on the top shelf of the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes at 350F-400F (it can sit in the oven while the latter is warming up) until the egg has set the white sauce, and the bake is heated through.

Brown under a hot grill/broiler if necessary to leave brown spots on the white sauce, and serve hot or cold with a leaf based salad

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