Greek Moussaka

The beloved Moussaka. One of Greece’s most famous dishes and for good reason. Moussaka is what dreams are made of, from an omnivore’s standpoint; a layered gratin of combined slices of potatoes, eggplants, zucchinis and minced meat topped with cheesy béchamel. This is about as delicious as Mediterranean comfort food gets.

This dish is a perfect way to level up your slicing skills. With layers of potatoes, eggplant and zucchini awaiting your blade you’re going to need to understand that Moussaka is all about the stages of cooking. Greek moussaka never fails to impress and is always a major crowd-pleaser. Essentially broken down into 3 key stages: the vegetable layers, the meat layer and preparing the béchamel sauce and cooking the eggplants. 

And with all dishes that we prepare, let’s dive right into the origins. It is widely believed that the Arabs introduced the early beginnings of Moussaka when eggplant was brought to Greece. A proto example of influence is seen in the Arabic musakkʾa is a meatless dish of eggplants, tomatoes, chickpeas, and onions stewed together in olive oil.

Nikos Tselementes, a Greek chef considered to be one of the most influential people that shaped modern Greek cuisine, came up with the recipe of Moussaka that we know today. During the Ottoman occupation of Greece and the Balkans, there had always been movements towards Greek independence; culturally & politically. This idea resonated with many Greeks during the time, especially Nikos Tselementes.

In an attempt to ‘rid’ Greek cuisine of its Turkish influence that had existed since the occupation, Tselementes looked to modernise Greek cuisine with a largely ‘European’ influence by adding meat and French béchamel sauce, in an attempt to ‘Westernise’ Greek cuisine. His version is the Moussaka that Greeks and people around the world, know and love. Today ‘Tselementés’, in Greece, is a synonym for “cookbook” and is also used as a term of endearment for someone who can cook very well.

The most noticeable taste of a Moussaka is its “umaminess” that stems from its Tomato sauce, concentrated during the baking process. The sauce also contains a significant amount of garlic and tomatoes. Other important flavours are those of the eggplant and the meat. Eggplants have an earthy and slightly smokey flavour, and the meat is just basic ground lamb meat cooked with onions features aromatic herbs and spices which penetrate the meat, giving a characteristic taste and smell that permeates around the household, once put in the oven!

Intrigued? Hungry? If you can’t wait until Greek restaurants re-open again? Why not try your hand at baking your very own moussaka?

What you’ll need:

Tojiro Vegetable Knife

Large Heavy-based Frying Pan

Saucepan

Chopping board

Deep oven pan

Ingredients:

Vegetable layer:

  • 3 potatoes
  • 5-6 tablespoon(s) olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 zucchinis, medium
  • 2 eggplants
  • thyme
  • salt
  • pepper

Meat layer:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoon(s) olive oil, for sautéing
  • 1 clove(s) of garlic
  • 3 pinches granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) nutmeg
  • 1 level teaspoon(s) cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon(s) tomato paste
  • 500 g ground beef
  • 400 g canned tomatoes
  • salt
  • pepper

Béchamel sauce

  • 100 g butter
  • 100 g all-purpose flour
  • 750 ml milk, 3,5%
  • pepper, ground
  • 1 pinch nutmeg, ground
  • 100 g parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 egg yolks

Instructions:

Vegetable Layer:

Preheat Oven to 200 degrees celsius.

Using the Tojiro Vegetable Knife:

  1. Thinly and evenly slice 2 potatoes & 1 red onion.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper & thyme.
  3. Spread into a layer on the bottom of the oven dish.
  4. Bake for 20 mins until softened slightly and a little golden and remove from the oven.
  5. Thinly and evenly slice the eggplant.
  6. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper & thyme.
  7. Spread into a layer on top of the baked potato & onion.
  8. Bake for 20 mins until softened slightly and a little golden.
  9. Thinly and evenly slice the zucchini.
  10. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper & thyme.
  11. Spread into a layer on top of the eggplant.
  12. Bake for 20 mins until softened slightly and a little golden and remove from oven.

Set aside.

Meat Layer:

  1. Place a frying pan over high heat and add the olive oil. 
  2. Using the Tojiro Vegetable Knife, coarsely chop the onion and add to the frying pan. 
  3. Finely chop garlic and add to the pan along with thyme and a pinch of sugar. 
  4. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until they caramelize nicely. 
  5. Add the ground meat and break it up with a wooden spoon. 
  6. Sauté until golden brown. 
  7. Add the tomato paste and sauté so that it loses its bitterness. 
  8. Add the chopped tomatoes, lower heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the sauce thickens. 
  9. Remove from heat and add the parsley and coarsely chopped basil. 
  10. Season with salt and pepper.

Set aside.

Béchamel sauce:

  1. Place a saucepan over medium heat. 
  2. Add and melt butter
  3. Add the flour and whisk until it soaks up all of the butter. 
  4. Add the milk in small batches while continuously whisking so that no lumps form. 
  5. As soon as the béchamel sauce thickens and bubbles start to form on the surface, remove it from heat. 
  6. Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper, 100 g parmesan and 3 egg yolks. 
  7. Whisk thoroughly.

Bringing it all together:

  1. Layer 50% of the meat mixture over the vegetables.
  2. Add 2-3 tablespoons of béchamel sauce to the remaining ground meat mixture and mix.
  3. Spread the mixture of ground meat and béchamel sauce the pure meat mixture (forming an additional layer!). 
  4. Cover with the remaining béchamel sauce, spreading it evenly and sprinkling 50 g of grated parmesan on top. 
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes. 
  6. When ready, remove from oven and allow to cool for around 45 mins. 
  7. Serve with fresh herbs and olive oil.

The Tojiro Vegetable Knife is designed to make chopping vegetables easier by allowing you to chop right through to the cutting board in one clean movement. This ends up being a much easier and cleaner way to cut vegetables compared to a Chef’s knife. Veg prep will never seem like a chore again.

When using the Tojiro Vegetable Knife you’ll notice how it makes short work of the chopping duties, they will cut through vegetables like butter. Tojiro DP knives are made with a hard cutting core of VG-10 along with a softer, more stain-resistant stainless layer, on the outside. VG-10 metal is one of the finest types of stain-resistant steel. 

There is also a special die-cast bolster welded onto the handle of the knives, which provides a smooth touch and comfortable grip. The noticeable weight and presence of the knife add to the experience as you apply very little force onto the blade as you cut through to the chopping board. Performance-wise, this vegetable knife is a wonderful tool that’s a great companion in the kitchen, when practising your favourite cutting techniques.

Tojiro’s knives are cost-effective, especially when you consider how high-quality their steel construct is. Tojiro knives are known for their excellent blade edge retention and crazy sharpness. A very good choice for anyone who wants to experience high-end Japanese knives at a reasonable price.

If you want a vegetable knife with incredible fit and finish, excellent balance, and an ergonomic blade that never maintains its sharpness, look no further than the Tojiro Vegetable Knife.

Bon Appetit!

Summary

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