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Moussaka (Greek: Μουσακάς Mousakas; Romanian: musaca; Turkish: musakka; South Slavic мусака; Arabic: musaqqaʿa) is a traditional aubergine (eggplant)-based dish in the Balkans and the Middle East. The Greek version consists of layers of ground (minced) lamb, sliced aubergine, and tomato, topped with a white sauce and baked. In the Arab world, moussaka is a cooked salad made up primarily of tomatoes and aubergine, similar to Italian caponata, and is usually served cold as a mezze dish. Despite its Arabic name, moussaka is usually thought of as a Greek dish in the West.


Mousakas (*)

In the standard (3-layer) Greek recipe, the bottom layer consists of aubergine slices sautéed in olive oil, the middle layer is ground lamb cooked with mashed tomatoes, and the top layer is béchamel sauce (probably introduced by Tselementes in the 1920s). The butter in the béchamel can be omitted, used sparingly, or substituted by cream. In the rest of the Balkans, the top layer is often a custard; in England, in rare cases a layer of mashed potatoes is used instead. Grated cheese or bread crumbs are often sprinkled on top.

There are variations on this basic recipe, sometimes with no sauce, sometimes with other vegetables. The most common variant in Greece may include zucchini (UK courgette), potatoes or mushrooms in addition to the aubergine. There is even a fast-day version in the Greek cookbook by Tselementes which includes neither meat nor sauce, just vegetables (ground aubergine is used instead of ground meat), tomato sauce, and bread crumbs.

The word moussaka is of Arabic origin, from saqqaʿa, "to chill"[1], but came into English via Greek.

Ingredients

1 large egg plant (aubergine)
Greek olive oil
Salt

Meat Sauce

One large onion, chopped
Six cloves of garlic, chopped
Three tablespoons of olive oil
One kilogram (2.2 lbs) of minced/ground beef or lamb
One large (28 oz) tin of diced tomatoes
One cup of red wine
Two tablespoons of chopped, fresh parsley
Two tablespoons of chopped, fresh Greek basil (optional)
Two bay leaves
One teaspoon of sugar
One cinnamon stick
Freshly ground black pepper
Two tablespoons of tomato paste

Cheese Sauce

Three tablespoons of butter
Four tablespoons of plain flour
Two cups of milk
Sprinkle of nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper
Half a cup of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
One cup of grated cheese (tasty, Edam, whatever)
One egg

Procedure

Cut egg plant into 5mm slices. Lay the slices out and sprinkle liberally with salt. This leaches out the bitterness. Leave these for at least an hour.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan and add onion and garlic. Sauté these until the onion starts to change colour. Add the meat and brown thoroughly. Add bay leaves and cinnamon stick, and continue to stir the meat until all the moisture from the meat is gone. Add tomatoes, herbs and sauces. Mix through and allow to cook for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine and continue to cook until the sauce is very thick. It should have very little moisture in it all. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick! Allow to cool.

In another saucepan, melt butter over a low heat. Remove from heat and add the flour. Blend this through thoroughly, then return to the heat and cook gently for three minutes, stirring continuously so that it does not catch (burn). Remove from heat and add the milk. Mix this through then return to the heat and allow mixture to boil. Allow sauce to cook gently for one minute, stirring continuously. Remove from heat, add cheeses, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper and mix through. Stand sauce aside and allow to cool.

Rinse the slices of egg plant under running water and dry on paper towels. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Place slices of egg plant in the pan and quickly turn to coat both sides in the hot oil. Fry until the slices are cooked (when they change colour and become soft). Drain. Repeat with remaining slices.

In a large casserole dish, lay slices of egg plant to cover the bottom. Cover with a layer of the meat sauce. Repeat layering egg plant and meat sauce until within three centimetres of the top of the dish.

Add the egg to the cool, cheese sauce and mix through thoroughly. Spoon this on the top layer in the casserole dish and sprinkle with extra grated cheese. Bake at 200 degrees C for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool and set for ten minutes.

Serve with a tossed Greek salad, red wine and crusty garlic bread.

References

Vefa Alexiadou , Greek Cuisine , ISBN 9608501865
Vefa Alexiadou , Festive Cuisine: 200 Recipes, to Prepare 19 Festive Menus , ISBN 9609013708
Vefa Alexiadou , Greek Pastries and Desserts , ISBN 9608501873

Moussaka, the national dish of the Aegean sea

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