Moussakas, is the most famous Greek dish which is layered with sautéed slices of potatoes and eggplants (in some places they also add zucchini), with the meat sauce in the middle layer and topped with béchamel sauce and myzithra or graviera cheese.
The vegetables are fried in extra virgin olive oil and left in a colander or on kitchen paper to drain any excess oil. A layer of vegetables is placed in a baking tin, then the meat sauce, with either ground pork or veal, is added in the middle, then another layer of potatoes, zucchini and eggplants and finally it is topped with the bechamel sauce. It is then baked in the oven until golden.
This is the traditional way of making moussakas but if you want a lighter version of moussakas instead of frying the potatoes and eggplants you can brush them with olive oil and bake them in the oven or cook them on a non stick sauteing pan by just slightly brushing them with olive oil.
The Cypriot version of moussakas lies in the meat sauce and the spices used in it and of course local Cypriot cheese is used in the bechamel which would be either anari or halloumi. Apart from adding halloumi, I always sprinkle some cinnamon on top. Nothing beats that!! Believe me it not only smells amazing but that touch of cinnamon makes it heavenly.
A quite rich dish but so delicious!!
Traditional Greek Moussakas
- 5 – 6 medium eggplants, cut into thin slices, lengthwise
- 4 big potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices, lengthwise
- ¼ cup olive oil for sautéing or grilling the vegetables
- 2 tbsp grated graviera or halloumi to sprinkle on top
- Cinnamon to sprinkle on top
For the meat sauce:
- 500 grams (1.10 lbs) lean ground veal
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup red dry wine
- 2 cups grated ripe tomatoes
- 1 cup parsley finely chopped
- Cut the potatoes into ½ cm thick slices and eggplants into 1 cm thick slices.
- Fry vegetables starting with the potatoes and then the eggplants or brush all vegetables with olive oil and place them on a baking tin and grill them on both sides. You may have to do this in two batches.
- Heat the olive oil in a sautéing pan and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
- Add the ground meat and mix until it turns from pink to greyish-white. While mixing, add salt, pepper, cinnamon and tomatoes and wine and cook until the alcohol evaporates. Lower heat and cook over moderate heat for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced. Remove from the heat, discard bay leaf and cinnamon stick and mix in parsley.
Prepare the Béchamel sauce.
- Place a layer of half the vegetables, in a baking tin (35 x 30 cm – 13.8 x 11.8 inches) and season with salt. Add the meat sauce on top of the vegetables, then the remaining vegetables, season with salt and top with béchamel.
- Add the reserved grated cheese and sprinkle some cinnamon on top.
Bake in a preheated oven to 180o C /350o F for about 45 – 60 minutes or until golden on top.
This and many more recipes are included in my cookbook Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste as well as in Volume 1 of my e-cookbook, sold on all Amazon stores.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,