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A definitive recipe for mousaka, please.

Discussion in 'Cookery' started by modelmaker, Apr 13, 2011.

  1. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    I've only eaten mousaka on one occasion in Greece. It was ok, but nothing to write home about. OK, it was in a mediocre cafe in a town centre about 25 years ago. Since then, I've had a go myself on about 4 occasions with varying degrees of success, but it's never quite hit the spot. I always ask myself why I didn't go for lasagne instead.
    But it's a classic Greek dish. I realise my misunderstanding of the recipe comes down to my own failings. Last week, when we were ordering our food online, aubergines appeared on the screen and my sweetheat suggested I have another go, and that's what I've done, however I did take the trouble to look briefly at recipes before doing it.
    In general, they all seemed to show something similar to what I'd tried before. One said to coat the aubergine in egg white and cover it in bread crumbs then bake until golden brown before layering in the meat mix. I didn't fancy that. Instead, after salting the aubergine and a sliced courgette, drying them off, I dusted them in flour and fried them in olive oil till they took on a good colour.
    I'm working in the dark here. I haven't eaten a mousaka so far that would incite me to offer it to guests, yet I know it ought to be possible, as it supposed to be a classic.
    The sample I ate in Greece was tepid. Is this the norm?
     
  2. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    I've only eaten mousaka on one occasion in Greece. It was ok, but nothing to write home about. OK, it was in a mediocre cafe in a town centre about 25 years ago. Since then, I've had a go myself on about 4 occasions with varying degrees of success, but it's never quite hit the spot. I always ask myself why I didn't go for lasagne instead.
    But it's a classic Greek dish. I realise my misunderstanding of the recipe comes down to my own failings. Last week, when we were ordering our food online, aubergines appeared on the screen and my sweetheat suggested I have another go, and that's what I've done, however I did take the trouble to look briefly at recipes before doing it.
    In general, they all seemed to show something similar to what I'd tried before. One said to coat the aubergine in egg white and cover it in bread crumbs then bake until golden brown before layering in the meat mix. I didn't fancy that. Instead, after salting the aubergine and a sliced courgette, drying them off, I dusted them in flour and fried them in olive oil till they took on a good colour.
    I'm working in the dark here. I haven't eaten a mousaka so far that would incite me to offer it to guests, yet I know it ought to be possible, as it supposed to be a classic.
    The sample I ate in Greece was tepid. Is this the norm?
     
  3. This is how I do mine:
    Chop a large onion finely
    Chop 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, finely
    Fry until just turning brown.
    Add about 2 pounds of minced lamb, brown off.
    Add a glass of white wine (I sometimes use red, depends on what I have in).
    Add a tin of tomatoes.
    Add a stick of cinnamon and a handful of fresh oregano (or equivalent dried)
    Simmer for a good 45 mins or so.
    Slice 2 to 3 aubergines depending on size (I don't bother with the salting), griddle on high heat with very little oil until just taking colour.
    Put aubergine slices in an oven proof dish, add salt and pepper (well you layer, but I don't think I need to tell you that).
    Add a layer of the meat/tomato sauce, etc, you know. My Greek friends don't layer, they put the meat on top of the aubergines and that was it, although one Greek friend adds a layer of sliced tomatoes on top.
    Make up a white sauce (I like to add some cheese, feta, not sure if this is authentic). I sometimes beat in an egg or two, as my Greek friends do this (not sure if you really need to, turns out fine when I don't).(I make up a good pint of sauce).
    Add over the aubergine and meat layers.
    Bake for about 30 to 40 mins at about 200°C.
    In Greek restaurants I have had the most yucky, luke warm stuff.
    My Greek friends serve it piping hot.
    I have cooked my version for my Greek friends and they were happy with it (perhaps they are just polite, although they normally moan if food is not right).
    The trick is the frying of the aubergine - it should not soak up too much oil or become soggy and mushy.
    EG is your girl for really authentic, I suspect!



     
  4. grandelf

    grandelf New commenter

  5. And for those who don't like aubergine - or for a real winter treat - just potato is great.
    I posted my secret family recipe a while ago. It is a war time style recipe and, whilst in no way authentic, is very very nice.
    Lamb mince, fried, add a bay leaf or two and tin of toms, add water/ tom puree if you like a wetter bowlful - all quantities up to you.
    Meanwhile parboil and then slice potato - we like loads.
    Assemble minus the bay leaf and plus black pepper and cheese sauce (packet or home made depending on who is making it).
    Throw in oven until potatoes are soft. Leave for 24 hours, reheat and serve with crusty bread.
     
  6. And no, I didn't forget any spices or onions, we just don't use any. Sometimes I'll add oregano or something, but only bay leaf is vital in the family recipe.
    But I may now add some of the spices in the margin!
     
  7. egyptgirl

    egyptgirl Senior commenter

    It is by no means authentic, but I substituted aubergine for courgette and even cucumber before. Both worked fine!
     
  8. nick909

    nick909 Lead commenter

    I do just this.
    The fat holds much of the flavour in the meat - in fact virtually all of it*. In pouring off the fat, you are pouring away flavour. I find that stirring the fat through a few times makes it 'emulsify' with the rest of the sauce, meaning there's no layer of floating fat.
    Also, allowing the meat juices to reduce concentrates flavour. The meat flavour won't evaporate; the water content will. Think about it - when you reduce a stock or a sauce, the flavour doesn't dissipate or remain constant; it deepens.

    *I read an interesting article recently that suggested that all of the flavour in red meat is in its fat. The study suggested that an entirely lean piece of lamb would taste identical to an entirely lean piece of beef in a blind taste. I'm not sure about this, but when you consider how differently a piece of roast rib of beef tastes in comparison to a roast silverside, you have to accept that there might be a point here.
     
  9. as a counter example though, one could include any game, very lean but a lot of flavour.
    or how much flavour one can get in a consomme.
     
  10. nick909

    nick909 Lead commenter

    Yes, but that's nothing to do with leanness. Game has a strong flavour because of the maturation process during the storing of the meat - the hanging element that makes the meat slightly putrid.
    A consomme is a rich reduction of flavours - it tastes strong because it's concentrated and it takes flavours from the bones. Leannes isn't a factor - you can have a consomee of mushrooms, after all.
    I'm not sure what you're suggesting Jaxx - that lean meat is more flavourful than meat with a good amount of fat? You know that's not true, surely?
     
  11. even if you eat freshly shot game its got a very strong flavour.
    i'm suggesting that as there are examples of meat with fat having more flavour, there are meats with less fat with more flavour, its just i think other factors than fat content make a much bigger difference.
    as you said, you don't think that all flavour is in the fat, and i agree with that, neither do i think there is no flavour in the fat, a good example would be a consomme, where you've removed the fat and concentrated, you have a very strong flavour.
    so my personal taste when making a moussaka is to dry fry the mince, then use some of the left over fat to fry the onion, but probably pouring about half away.
     
  12. Good lord, no! You are tipping away all the flavour! I let the moisture steam out - I don't want my meat being a load of water, but I do want the fat for taste. I NEVER drain off the fat!
     
  13. Draining the fat off a joint or game is something different.
    Mince is tiddly bits of meat - drain the fat off and you have nowt much left to give flavour!
    Letting the moisture evaporate is only letting the water out - fat doesn't evaporate away!
    Draining the fat off is taking the taste away!
    Like nick, I stir the meat fat in, it soon mixes in well, rather than being a layer on the top, as you would have if boiling or poaching a chicken.
    And MM - this is not Germanic. I learnt this trick as a wee kid in the UK. Please don't try to make out that anything I do different to you is "germanic". It gets on my nerves.
     
  14. nick909

    nick909 Lead commenter

    With respect, I still don't understand your argument, Jaxx. You're comparing different meats. Totally different creatures, that taste different. And, I don't think freshly shot game has a particularly strong flavour. If we do as you say, and compare different creatures, and compare the taste a haunch of freshly killed venison, say, to a leg of lamb - both roasted for the sake of a fair test - then the lamb will definitely taste stronger. Without a shadow of a doubt. Mainly because of the fat content.
    Well we'll agree to differ then. I see this as pouring flavour away.
     
  15. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    Notwithstanding what's been written about fat and flavour, for me there is a place for fat, especially in a roast dinner. I would eat beef just once a year so long as it was a rib roast. You can keep your topside etc.
    However with mince, it's a different story. In the past, I retained the fat on the basis there was the flavour, but now I drain most of it off and create different flavour from the browning of the meat. It tastes a lot cleaner and allows the other ingredients to shine in their own right.
    It's all personal taste, of course, and there are recipes using mince for which the fat is an essential ingredient, such as burgers or meatballs.
     
  16. nick909

    nick909 Lead commenter

    Fair points MM. I'd still tend to allow the food to cook, and then skim off excess fat that had risen to the top at the end of cooking. The danger of pouring fat off after browning is that juices are likely to have mingled with them, and you risk pouring off juices as well.
    As you say, personal taste though.
     
  17. true, i'm just trying to highlight that a meat need not be fatty to have a lot of flavour. its just that generally i think that good animal husbandry will lead to animals with much lower fat content, but a better taste and that depending on your mince, i don't think that if you have a lot of fat left after you've browned it that pouring away the fat you'll lose a lot of flavour, as always just my personal opinion.
    i think you are right.
    My son's birthday party this weekend, so am tempted to give it an experiment and ask people to have a vote for a bit of a test.
     
  18. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    Ok, I don't want to labour this, but how about having a go at trying my method and retaining the fat in case you don't like it, or better still, making two dishes from the mince, one with the fat and one without to see which you eventually prefer?
    With the one without the fat, give the meat time to develop some flavour in its own right.
    I have to point out this isn't a contest. I'd be more than happy from what I've seen to be a diner at your table, nick. Just a passing of thoughts.
     
  19. nick909

    nick909 Lead commenter

    Indeed it's not, and indeed I would at yours as well, sir.
     
  20. I have tried your method in the past.
    I prefer my method [​IMG]
     

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