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Moussaka with Roasted Aubergines and Ricotta

This recipe is a Greek classic, but the little hint of Italy I've added in the shape of ricotta cheese makes the very best moussaka topping I've tasted. Also, roasting the aubergines is much less tiresome than standing over a frying pan watching them soak up masses of oil.

 
 

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book One

Method

First of all you need to prepare the aubergines to get rid of their high water content and concentrate their flavour. To do this, remove the stalks and, leaving the skins on, cut them into approximately 1½ inch (4 cm) chunks. Then place them in a colander and sprinkle them with about 1 level dessertspoon of salt.

Now put a plate on top of them and weigh it down with something heavy, then put another plate underneath to catch the juices. Leave them like this for 1 hour.

Then, shortly before the end of this time, pre-heat the oven to its highest setting.

When the hour is up, squeeze out any of the excess juice from the aubergines with your hands and dry them as thoroughly as you can in a clean cloth.

Next, spread them out on the baking sheet, drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over them and toss them around to get a good coating. Now pop the baking sheet in the oven and roast the aubergines for 30 minutes or until they are tinged brown at the edges.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in your largest frying pan and fry the onions and garlic gently for about 5 minutes. After that, turn the heat up high, add the minced lamb and brown it for a few minutes, turning it and keeping it on the move.

Now cook the whole lot, stirring all the time, for 2-3 minutes. Then reduce the heat and, in a small bowl, mix the mint, parsley, cinnamon, tomato purée and red wine.

When they're thoroughly combined, pour them over the meat, season well and cook the whole lot very gently for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time so it doesn't catch on the base of the pan.

Now remove the aubergines from the oven and reduce the temperature to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C). It's a good idea to leave the oven door open to cool it down a bit.

Next, make the topping by placing the milk, flour, butter, nutmeg and bay leaf in a saucepan. Using a balloon whisk, whisk over a medium heat until everything comes up to simmering point and the sauce becomes smooth and glossy.

Now turn the heat down to its lowest setting and let the sauce cook gently for 5 minutes. Then taste and season, discarding the bay leaf, remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool a little before whisking in the ricotta and egg.

Give it a good whisk to blend everything thoroughly.

Finally, combine the roasted aubergines with the meat mixture and transfer it all to the baking dish. Then pour the topping over, sprinkle the surface with the Parmesan and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 50 minutes, by which time the top will be golden brown.

Let it stand for 10 minutes to settle, then serve with brown rice and a Greek-style salad of cucumber, tomatoes, olives and crumbled Feta cheese dressed with olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

 

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