Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No more eggplant guilt

Lately, whenever I see an eggplant at the supermarket or vege shop, I feel a little guilty. The thing is, I've had moussaka (p151) on my 'to do' list for weeks. Months before that, I'd promised to try it soon after having Lauren recommend the recipe to me. Yet every week I'd look at those eggplants and find a reason not to buy one.

Well, this week I actually bought one, along with the rest of the necessary ingredients. And last night, I finally rolled my sleeves up and got that moussaka made.

A word of warning: if you're planning to make this dish, allow yourself plenty of time. Not anticipating how long it would take, I didn't make a start on my moussaka until 6.30pm yesterday. It was around 8.30pm by the time I was able to sit down and eat it.

First things first: the recipe requires cooked lamb mince, so I started by cooking up my mince and setting it aside. Next I chopped up onion and garlic, and got that on while I tended to the eggplant. I haven't used eggplant much, but I gather it needs salting to remove the bitterness. So I sliced up my eggplant, sprinkled salt on either side of each slice, and laid them out on trays to sit for half an hour.

When the onions were cooked, I started adding further ingredients. The mince went back in, along with some tomato puree and chicken stock. One slightly tricky addition was the blanched, skinned and chopped tomatoes. I didn't get these done in advance, and was having trouble getting the skins to come off. After slicing into one finger in my haste, I decided to flag it and bunged the tomatoes in skin and all. Another time, I wouldn't bother with all this: I'd just substitute a can of tomatoes, leaving out both the fresh tomatoes and the puree.

The mince mixture now had to cook down for half an hour. Towards the end of this time, I began assembling the rest of my ingredients, rinsing and frying my eggplant slices, and beating up the egg yolks, flour and yoghurt which would make the topping.

With all elements ready, I layered eggplant with the mince mixture in a casserole dish. There really didn't seem to be enough eggplant - I now have a vague recollection of Lauren telling me to use two eggplants, not one, all those months ago. I might be imagining that, but it's definitely what I'd do next time. On top of the final eggplant layer, I poured the yoghurt mixture, spreading it out to cover the whole dish.

It was only this morning, when describing my efforts to a workmate, that I realised I had missed something at this point. After adding the yoghurt mixture, I should have scattered parmesan cheese over the top. And I completely forgot; I just put the dish in the oven and sat down to wait for 40 minutes until it was cooked.

Even without the parmesan, the moussaka was really tasty. I loved the smooth silky texture of the eggplant, and am quite determined to try using it more in the future. Was it worth the time taken, the large number of dirty dishes, and an irritating cut in the tip of my finger? Probably not. But next time I think I'd simplify it a bit, substituting canned tomatoes as I've suggested above, and possibly leaving out the chicken stock so as not to have so much liquid to reduce down. I'd even like to experiment with different ways of cooking those eggplant slices (perhaps just spray them with oil and then bake them?) as frying them makes the entire moussaka a little oily.

There's plenty of room for experimentation here. I can vouch for the recipe being tasty as it is (or even if you forget the parmesan) but if you don't have a couple of hours up your sleeve, it might be necessary to cut a few corners.


  1. egg plant is great in stirfry or on the bbq, one of my favs becs

  2. Thanks Becs I'll give it a go


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