With this cold weather snap we are experiencing, I have been naturally making a lot of hearty dishes at the café and at home. Those classic, stick-to-your-tummy dishes are what I’m referring to. Now, I’m sure each and every one of you has that go-to recipe that you make when you’re feeling that winter chill. In fact, you may have quite a few up your sleeve already. As much as I love those classics, I also like to step out of the box every now and then by trying different ethnic versions of comfort food.
This week I invite you to try a Greek comfort classic called moussaka. The great thing about this dish is that you can be as creative as you wish with it. You can make it vegetarian-friendly or you can use really any variety of minced meat that you desire. There are three basic ingredients to any moussaka: eggplant, béchamel sauce and minced meat or lentils. I know that many of you may shy away from a vegetable like eggplant, but this recipe is a perfect way to try it if you are not familiar with it already. This dish also features a ton of warm and cozy spices alongside lentils, which are a wonderful source of fiber and protein, so give it a try – you won’t be disappointed.
1 large eggplant, cut into 1-cm (1/2-inch slices)
2/3 cup olive oil
2 cups canned lentils, drained & rinsed (or 1.5 lbs extra lean minced meat)
6-8 medium sized yellow flesh potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced and par cooked
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground ginger
1 can diced tomatoes (14oz)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp of dried)
Salt and pepper
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 egg yolk
1 pinch garlic powder
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
Moussaka: Add sliced potatoes to pot with cold water and pinch of salt, bring to boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Strain potatoes and set aside;
In a large skillet over medium heat, lightly salt then brown the eggplant, several slices at a time, using 125 ml (1/2 cup) of the oil. Set aside on a plate with paper towel to remove excess oil;
In the same skillet in the remaining oil, brown onion with the garlic (and meat) with spices and lentils, season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, oregano and red wine vinegar; bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.
Béchamel: In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Dust with the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk and bring to a boil while stirring add salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the egg, adjust the seasoning. Set aside;
With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
Assembly: Butter or oil a baking dish about 18 x 28-cm (7 x 11-inch) in size. Lay the eggplant slices on the bottom. Top with the lentil (or meat) mixture then layer with tomatoes and sliced par cooked potatoes. Spread the béchamel over the top. Bake until the béchamel turns golden in colour, about 30 minutes.