A Taste of Greece: Moussaka

Moussaka with Chef George Tselementes, grandson of Nikolaos Tselementes – the great cooking teacher and writer from Sifnos!

Although considered a traditional Greek dish, its history is relatively recent, as it is the creation of Nickolaos Tselementes, the “father” of modern Greek gastronomy, who married the materials of moussaka with the béchamel sauce in early 20th century. Being of Sifnian descent, we met his grandson George Thelementes – also a chef – in Sifnos, and he gave us his own recipe of this traditional Greek dish, a lighter version for the people of the 21st century.

Ingredients

  • 4 aubergines medium size
  • 5 potatoes medium size
  • a pinch of sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • sunflower oil
  • Minced beef Bolognese
  • 500g minced beef
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste (passata)
  • 1 wine glass of red wine
  • sunflower oil
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar
  • salt & pepper
  • For the béchamel sauce
  • 125g sunflower oil
  • 125g flour
  • 625g milk in room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • grated Gruyere type of cheese or parmesan (± 100g)
  • grated nutmeg
  • salt & pepper

Method

Peel the potatoes and slice them into not too thin not too thick slices. Slice the eggplants into thin rounds and fry. Place a deep pan over heat, add the sunflower oil and let it get hot. Fry the potatoes over medium heat until soften and golden brown. Then, fry the eggplant in higher heat. Let both drain from excess oil on a baking pan lined with paper towels.

Minced beef Bolognese

Sauté the chopped onion in a saucepan with a little sunflower oil. Once golden brown, add the minced meat and stir frequently.  Add the wine and then salt, pepper and sugar. Dilute the tomato paste in cold water, pour into the pot, fill with more warm water and bring to a boil.

For the béchamel sauce

Place a pot over heat. Add the sunflower oil and the flour and whisk quickly until it soaks up all of the oil and starts to get some colour. Add the milk in small batches while continuously whisking so that no lumps form. As soon as the béchamel sauce thickens and bubbles start to form on the surface, remove from heat. Add the salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. Once slightly cooled, add the 2 eggs, and whisk thoroughly.

To assemble

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. In a 25x32cm baking pan, spread a layer of potatoes, season with salt and pepper and cover with a layer of eggplants and again season, making sure you don’t leave any gaps. Spread half minced bolognese and then add another layer of eggplants and add a bit of sugar. Continue spreading the rest of the minced meat and finish with another layer of eggplant, which again we season with salt, pepper and a little sugar. Cover with the béchamel sauce, spreading it evenly and sprinkle with a little bit of grated cheese or parmesan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before cutting.