Inspiration: When I first started cooking seriously, I’d have big ambitions to make these huge, exotic meals every night, and a lot of nights I’d try to. Back then, though, I wouldn’t take my time so much, or I wouldn’t use the best ingredients, or I wouldn’t adjust the seasonings and ingredients in the recipe here and there to our tastes….and as a result, a lot of times the final meal was underwhelming. One of those meals was my first shot at moussaka. It turned out okay enough, but if it tells you anything, I haven’t made it since then and I didn’t even keep the recipe. Which is a sad thing, because for some reason, I’ve always had this romantic fascination with this dish. I don’t know what it is, but something in me has always needed to find a fabulous moussaka recipe for our repertoire. Color me weird if you’d like :)
What We Loved: This was one of those great meals that I could just tell was going to be fabulous while everything was still simmering away in the pan. I love when that happens. The aromas in the kitchen while this is cooking are amazing – so complex, spicy, and earthy – and the taste is just as perfect. The casserole is made with beautiful and comforting lamb and vegetables, like you’d find in a stew; a lovely combination of sweet and savory spices (we love that cinnamon in there); delightfully creamy eggplant; and a rich, cheesy topping. One of the best things about this meal is the way that the eggplant transforms itself into a soft, creamy, almost sweet layer in this dish – it’s such a treat. Throwing in a myriad of slightly sweet spices with all of the other savory ingredients really makes the flavor of the final dish so intense and complex, and the yogurt topping is surprisingly creamy with a nutty bite of Parmesan. We ate this three nights in a row without ever tiring of it (and in fact looking forward to it each night), with more leftover for lunch. I’m so glad that we’ve finally found a great moussaka recipe to hang onto as a staple in our recipe collection.
Tips: I told Brandon while we were eating that the only thing that I would change about this recipe would be to add more of the yogurt topping. It’s delicious! So I might recommend doubling if it you’re so inclined (or instead, maybe making about 1/2 more of the original recipe, as doubling might result in too much). I’ve written the recipe below as I made it (not doubled).
Source: Adapted from Simply Delicious
1 lb ground lamb
1 large leek (or two medium-sized ones), cleaned and finely sliced
4 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups water (or stock)
2 eggplants, sliced into 1/4 inch slices (use your judgement on how many eggplants you need – you want enough slices in the end to make two layers in a 9 x 13 casserole)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
16 oz thick Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1. Saute the lamb over medium heat in a large saute pan until about halfway cooked through. Add the leeks and carrot. Season to taste with salt and pepper, mix well, and continue sauteeing until the lamb is cooked through and the vegetables are softened.
2. Add the garlic and bay leaves, and mix together. Stir in the cinnamon, cumin, paprika, nutmeg, cloves, and oregano.
3. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste, and mix together. Add the water or stock, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer uncovered until the mixture is nice and thick, about 20-30 minutes. Cook longer if necessary to allow the liquid to reduce.
4. While the lamb mixture is cooking, place the eggplant slices onto baking sheets, drizzle generously with olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Place in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes or so, until they eggplant slices are lgihtly roasted/wrinkly.
5. Combine the Greek yogurt, eggs, Parmesan, about 1 teaspoon salt, and a good sprinkling of fresh black pepper. Mix well to combine.
6. Remove the bay leaves from the lamb mixture. Taste for salt, adding more if necessary. Spread a little bit of the mixture onto the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Add a layer of roasted eggplant, followed by half of the lamb mixture. Repeat one more time, adding the second half of the eggplant and the second half of the lamb mixture.
6. Pour the yogurt mixture over the casserole, spreading it out into an even layer.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Allow to set for about 10 minutes before serving.