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Greek moussaka

18 May 2013 / 10:05:24  GRReporter
5469 reads

Petya Zagorcheva

The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus said that a poet was not much different from a chef because they both create art. Well said indeed! I have always believed that, like any art, cooking is a vast universe, especially when it comes to the cuisine of a country like Greece, which is bordering on three continents.

Greek cuisine is certainly among the most delicious in the world! I think one of the main reasons for this is the love with which food is grown and prepared in Greece. (Which, of course, makes those who consume it smile, and then those smiling and inspired people cook and their food makes other people smile, etc). Additionally, eating in Greece is usually accompanied by a pleasant chat and good mood. Greeks do not like eating alone. They eat in a pleasant company. Back in ancient Greece, people used to gather with friends around the table where they exchanged ideas and gave rise to interesting discussions. And today, in times of severe crisis, one of the major pleasures of our southern neighbours is still a dinner with friends in a neighbourhood tavern.

Although we are not in Greece at the moment, we could transfer here the unique Greek atmosphere by preparing a delicious Greek meal and inviting friends to visit us. My first suggestion in this new culinary section is a very popular and tasty dish, which is widespread in the Balkans and Asia Minor. It is moussaka, of course! There are many recipes and ways to prepare it, but the Greek moussaka is certainly one of the most famous dishes and it is my favourite one.

Here is how we prepare Greek moussaka in my Bulgarian-Greek family:

- 4 eggplants
- 1 ½ kg potatoes
- ½ kg minced veal
- Onion
- Tomato juice
- Spices (salt, black pepper, oregano, cinnamon and cumin)
- 2 eggs
- Yellow cheese (hard) - Kefalotiri
- Olive oil

for the béchamel sauce (you may use semi-cooked as well)
- 30 - 40 g butter
- 3 - 4 tablespoons of flour
- 2 - 3 cups of fresh milk
- 2 egg yolks
- salt and pepper (you can add some nutmeg as well)

Cut the eggplants into strips and put them in salted water for about 30 minutes, then squeeze them and fry them in olive oil. Cut the potatoes into rings, dry them a little and fry them too.

Prepare the minced meat by frying it well in hot oil along with finely chopped onion for about 10 minutes. After frying the minced meat well, add the tomato juice and spices as desired (salt, black pepper, oregano, cumin and a little cinnamon if you like). Let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

When the minced meat is ready, take it off the stove and add two eggs and a little grated cheese. It is very tasty!

Now, we have to arrange the moussaka in an oiled baking dish, starting with a row of potatoes, a row of eggplants, which we cover with minced meat, add some grated yellow cheese and continue in the same order - potatoes, eggplant, minced meat and cheese. You can add salt.

Now, it is time to prepare the béchamel sauce but you can use semi-cooked sauce too.

If you decide to make it yourself, prepare the béchamel sauce as follows: Heat the butter in a saucepan until melted. Add the flour, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Add the fresh milk gradually and continue stirring until it boils. Then, remove the pan from the heat and put some salt and pepper (and nutmeg if you like). Beat two eggs, add them to the mixture and stir again. Pour the béchamel sauce over the moussaka and bake for 40-50 minutes in a preheated oven (160-170 degrees). Enjoy!

Tasty tricks:
You can put cumin in the minced meat like Bulgarians do.
You can add a little cinnamon in the minced meat like Greeks do
When the minced meat is ready and you remove it from the heat, you can add two eggs and a little grated cheese, which will make it very tasty!

A joint initiative of GRReporter and Aristea Centre for Greek Language and Culture

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