I took a week off this summer to regroup with a couple of girlfriends. We decided to fly to Greece and do as little as humanely possible. Four days into our peaceful break the UK imploded with the outcome of Brexit. We ran to a cashpoint to take out Euros before the pound dropped to unrecognisable levels. So needless to say the relaxing holiday wasn’t quite as chilled as we wished for.
It was my first visit to Greece. What a beautiful place with such lovely, kind and helpful people. Kefalonia is a stunning island about 20km long and half that width. The sea was warm and the sun was hot. I ate tons of fish, mostly grilled sardines served with tomatoes and cucumber and a lovely creamy tsatziki. I also discovered the greek dish Horta. Its simple blanched spinach like greens, dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice. Its so fresh and delicious that you can almost feel the vitamin boost
My one regret is that I did not eat an authentic moussaka. I did my research though and decided I would make on as soon as I came home. The secret is to fry off your vegetables in olive oil before you assemble the dish. This is time consuming but a process that must happen for the best tasting pie.
I leave you with the recipe and a few photos.
My daily diet in Greece pretty much consisted of grilled sardines and greek salad. I wanted to try a mousakka but it just seemed too hot to contemplate such a warm filling meal.
However on my return it was one of the first things I made for my family and hungry neighbours eager to cash in on my enthusiasm for all things Greek.
After a little bit of research, I took the best bits of many recipes and created the recipe below. This recipe is time consuming as frying all the veg in batches takes a while. Believe me it is worth the effort.
- 150-175ml olive oil
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 900g lean minced lamb
- 50ml white wine or water
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- 1 cinammon stick
- handful fresh oragano leaves, chopped. Or a big dash of dried oragano
- 3 large aubergines
- 3 courgettes
- 4 or 5 maris piper potatoes
- salt and freshly ground pepper
For the cheese sauce
- 75g butter
- 75g plain flour
- 600ml milk
- 50g kefalotiri cheese, finely grated. If you can’t find this cheese use pecorino or parmasen cheese.
- 2 medium free-range eggs beaten
Preheat the oven at 200C/400F/Gas 6.
For the lamb sauce, heat two teaspoons of the oil in a pan. Add the onions and garlic and fry until just beginning to brown. Add the minced lamb and fry over a high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the wine, tomatoes and oregano and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes while you make everything else.
Now begin your mini marathon of frying. Take your courgette, aubergine and potatoes and without peeling them, slice them lengthwise into 3/4mm slices. Season them both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan until it is jumping hot, add a large dash of the oil and fry the veg in batches, making sure they are well cooked and brown on each side. Place the cooked layers on a plate covered in kitchen roll to soak up the extra oil.
Take a large deep oven proof dish and begin by adding a layer of aubergine, then courgette, then potato and repeat until all of the veg are happy in the dish, make sure you give a little dust of salt a pepper to each layer.
For the topping, melt the butter in a non-stick pan, add the flour and cinnamon stick and cook over a medium heat for one minute to cook out the flour. Gradually beat in the milk, bring to the boil, stirring, and leave to simmer very gently for 10 minutes, giving it a stir every now and then. Remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the cheese and some salt and pepper to taste. Cool slightly and then beat in the eggs.
Now to assemble the final elements. Pour the cooked lamb sauce over the layered veg and then add the cheese sauce on top bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden-brown and bubbling.
Serve with a greek salad of fresh tomatoes and cucumber with the best feta you can find.