Shepherd’s pie for the for the Greeks?
I do love a bit of Meditteranean cooking. When I bought a shed load of grass-fed lamb mince from my local butchers Drings (of Greenwich) last month (my swag bag also included a large chicken, minted lamb chops, marrow bones for stock) I promptly relegated the lamb mince to the freezer since I didn’t have time to use it up straight away. I promised myself that I would try out a Moussaka recipe with the mince, and resisted temptation to defrost and turn into burgers. The time and opportunity to make Moussaka for dinner for a few friends eventually presented itself and I plunged myself excitedly into the task last week.
It is impossible to make Moussaka taste like Moussaka without some kind of creamy crispy topping. I think with a bit of experimenting I might eventually get to a dairy-free version but for now I think this works pretty well. My recipe is adapted from Mark’s Daily Apple a very American, but immensely useful website. If you’re a bit geeky and into more of the background and science behind Paleo/Primal nutrition he’s one of the leading gurus.
Instead of a flour-thickened bechamel base for the sauce, Mark uses full-fat Greek yoghurt, which is naturally thick and full of probiotics. I used Rachel’s Organic Greek yoghurt, since I had read that this (or Yeo Valley) was a fairly good choice, when choosing yoghurt. Always go for full-fat! Lots of useful info on choosing brands can be found on the natural food finder website.
I made this up the night before it was eaten and reheated in the oven when the guests arrived – the flavours develop overnight so this works especially well – A perfect cook in advance recipe. I had a portion of the left-overs cold with salad (yes cold!) the next day – delish!
Ingredients (serves 4-6 depending on how hungry you are!)
- olive oil
- 2 large Aubergines, cut into large discs ( the thickness of 2 x £1 coins)
- 700g jar of organic passata (I prefer this to tinned tomatoes, and jarred food is a better choice)
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 800g ground grass-fed lamb
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon mixed ground spice
- 1/2 Tablespoon mixed, dried herbs
- Handful of fresh rosemary
- 4 free-range eggs
- 300g full-fat greek-style organic yoghurt (must be full fat)
- fresh nutmeg
- 50g grated organic parmesan cheese
- Head a griddle pan with a little olive oil and fry the aubergine discs on both sides until browned. Set aside.
- Meanwhile heat some olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion and garlic until softened. Add the lamb mince and continue to stir with a wooden spoon, while the meat browns. Add the cinnamon, mixed spice and herbs, pour in the passata and give a good stir through – season with a little salt and pepper as desired. Simmer the sauce on a low heat for at least 30 minutes (45 even better).
- Whisk together the yoghurt and the eggs with a good grating of fresh nutmeg. The original recipe had less eggs, but I added an extra for a thicker texture. Feel free to experiment – remember you are trying to emulate bechamel.
- Once you are ready to assemble the Moussaka drizzle a little oil over the base of a baking dish, then place half of the aubergines in a layer over the base. Pour over the lamb mix, then a final layer of aubergines. Smoothly spoon the yoghurt mix over the top of the aubergines, so that it sits on top. Sprinkle over a little parmesan cheese a teeny grating of nutmeg. The dish can now go into the oven at 180 degrees for 50 minutes. (You can pre-heat the oven if you like while you’re waiting for the sauce to finish simmering0
- The dish will be ready with the top is slightly browned. Leave for 20 minutes before serving so you can cut into it neatly.
- Serve with a simple fresh green salad, drizzled in extra-virgin olive oil.