Monday, March 19, 2007

Young spring lamb - MOUSSAKA

We bought half a lamb from a local farmer, which I picked up yesterday, and made this moussaka for supper tonight. Moussaka is a Greek tradition and I imagine there are as many recipes as there are cooks. This recipe is adapted from the Foods of the World: Middle Eastern Cooking (published by Time Life in 1969).

3 medium-sized eggplants (about 3 pounds in total) peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices. (If the eggplant is young and fresh, you don’t need to peel it.)
1 cup flour
1-2 cups olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 lb lean ground lamb
1 small can of tomatoes (or 1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped)
1 small can tomato paste
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt and some fresh pepper
6 tbsp Parmesan cheese
Besamel Sauce (see below)

Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and lay the slices side by side on paper towels. Weigh them down with a platter or casserole. After 20-30 minutes, wipe the moisture off the eggplant with a paper towel.

In a wide skillet, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil on fairly high heat until it shimmers. Dip the eggplant slices into the flour, shake off the excess and, a few slices at a time, cook in the hot oil, a minute or two on each side. Transfer to paper towels. Add more oil to the skillet as needed.

When the eggplant is cooked, add another 1/2 cup olive oil to the skillet and fry the onions until they are soft and coloured. Stir in the lamb, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Add everything else except the cheese, cooking briskly until the moisture is gone and the mixture is thick. Taste it for seasoning and adjust to your taste.

Saltsa Besamel
2 cups milk
1 tbsp butter
3 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
dash of nutmeg

In a saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups milk with the butter until little bubbles form. Remove from heat. In another saucepan, beat the eggs with 1/2 cup milk, flour, salt and nutmeg until smooth. Place this saucepan over medium heat and, stirring constantly, slowly pour in the warm milk. Cook, stirring, until the sauce come to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat.

Set oven to 325F. In a broad casserole dish, layer half the eggplant. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp of cheese. Spoon in all the lamb. Arrange the rest of the eggplant on top. Sprinkle on 2 tbsp of cheese. Pour on the besamel, smooth the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 F and bake 15 minutes, until the besamel is toasty brown. Let the moussaka rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving it.

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