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Moussaka (Greek Beef and Eggplant Lasagna)

Author: Marthinus Strydom
Category: Beef
Serves/Qty: 6.00
Heidi Strydom

A classic recipe for a beloved Greek meal, featured in the exquisite cookbook "The Food And Cooking Of Greece" by Sara Nassopoulos. This dish is composed of tender slices of eggplant, a savory filling made of beef or lamb that's subtly seasoned with oregano and cinnamon, and is finished with a generous topping of creamy béchamel sauce.

Marthinus Strydom

The Story

Moussaka, a quintessential dish of the Eastern Mediterranean, traces its origins back to the culinary traditions of the Levant, the Balkans, and the Middle East, with its most famous version hailing from Greece. The dish evolved over centuries, influenced by the rich interplay of cultures across these regions. The modern Greek version, characterized by layers of eggplant, minced meat, and béchamel sauce, was popularized in the early 20th century by Nikolaos Tselementes, a celebrated Greek chef who sought to refine Greek cuisine by incorporating French cooking techniques. This adaptation of moussaka has since become synonymous with Greek culinary identity, reflecting the country's history of gastronomic fusion and adaptation. Over time, variations of moussaka have emerged across neighboring countries, each adding a unique twist to the basic formula, thus showcasing the dish's adaptability and enduring appeal.

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Ingredients
Adjust Quanities

Bechamel Sauce
60 g butter
5 tbsp (15 Teaspoons) plain flour
2½ cup (120 Teaspoons) milk
¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated (optional)
½ cup (24 Teaspoons) parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1¼ tsp vegetable or chicken stock powder
¼ tsp pepper
salt to taste
Eggplant
1 kg eggplant (aubergines) (0.75 cm thick slices)
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp (9 Teaspoons) olive oil
Filling
1 tbsp (3 Teaspoons) olive oil
1 onion diced
3 garlic cloves minced
700 g ground beef or lamb mince
½ cup (24 Teaspoons) red wine
400 g crushed tomatoes
3 tbsp (9 Teaspoons) tomato paste
1 cup (48 Teaspoons) beef broth/stock
1 tsp beef bouillon cube (or powder)
2 bay leaves
1½ tsp sugar
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cinnamon (or stick, use whole)
¾ tsp salt
Topping
⅓ cup (15.84 Teaspoons) panko breadcrumbs

Method

  • Place eggplant slightly overlapping in a large colander. Sprinkle with some salt. Repeat with remaining eggplant.
  • Leave to sweat for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make Meat Sauce and Béchamel Sauce.
  • Preheat oven to 240C/450F. 
  • Pat eggplant dry - make sure to do this well, otherwise it's too salty. Lay on parchment paper lined trays (you might need 3 trays, work in batches), brush with oil.
  • Bake 15 - 20 minutes or until lightly browned and softened . Remove and set aside to cool slightly.
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet or pot over high heat, then cook the garlic and onion until soft and lightly browned. 
  • Add the beef or lamb and cook until it changes from pink to brown, breaking it up as you go.
  • Add wine, cook for 1.5 minutes until alcohol has evaporated.
  • Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes, or until reduced to a thick sauce.
  • Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Stirring constantly, slowly add the milk. Then stir regularly for 3 to 5 minutes or until it thickens so that it thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon (see video / step photos).
  • Remove from the stove and whisk in cheese, nutmeg, stock powder, salt and pepper.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then whisk the eggs in. Cover with lid until required.
  • Lower oven to 180C/350F.
  • Place half the eggplant in the bottom of a baking dish, then top with all the Filling.
  • Top with remaining eggplant, then pour over the Béchamel Sauce, sprinkle with breadcrumbs. 
  • Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.