Baked Eggplant, Pine Nut & Gruyere Moussaka
I recently re-connected with my old friend Roberta, I was happy (but not surprised) to see she was running the Sydney Seafood School (in Sydney, Australia) and deeply entrenched in the food industry with two books under her belt and a host of other achievements.
Back in the day, Roberta would organise weekly visits to restaurants in Sydney and I would be one of the lucky friends she would include. Eating in her company was always fun and very entertaining – her passion for food was evident in the delight she showed when she ate – whether it be a new dish, a particular flavour or an old favourite – she exuded excitement and it was infectious.
This recipe comes from a book that Roberta is behind – Wild Weed Pie, an amazing collection of inspiring and innovative recipes from Australian chef, Janni Kyritsis. It is full of so many incredible recipes that I want to cook but today I chose this moussaka – something to serve with the lamb chops and Greek salad I had planned to cook for this evenings dinner. Of course it would work wonderfully on it’s own – it is so full of colour and flavour that it is a meal in itself.
2 kilos/4.4pounds of eggplants
12 large Roma tomatoes, blanched, peeled halved and seeded
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil for frying
60 grams/2.1 ounces of butter
2 large brown onions
120 grams/4.2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
160 grams/5.6 ounces gruyere cheese, grated
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted and roughly chopped
40 grams/1.4 ounces butter
1/3 cup plain flour
1 litre milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
4 eggs, lightly beaten
To make bechemal sauce, melt butter in a small saucepan, add flour and cook for 1 – 2 minutes over a medium heat, until mixture turns a sandy colour – but not brown. Add milk slowly, stirring constantly, until sauce boils and thickens. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat, and when cool, stir in the eggs – strain and refrigerate until required.
Preheat your oven to 200c/400f and set aside a baking dish – I used a 13 x 19 inch oval dish. Place half of the eggplants on a baking tray. Line another baking tray with parchment paper and place tomatoes on it, cut side down and sprinkle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Bake eggplants and tomatoes for about 30 minutes – or until a skewer goes through the eggplant easily – remove from the oven and increase oven temperature to 220c/440f.
Meanwhile, slice the remaining eggplants thinly, sprinkle with salt on both sides and leace for 30 minutes – then pat dry. Pour olive oil into your frying pan to a depth of 5mm and fry eggplant slices in batches, in a single layer, until golden brown. Heat more oil and continue frying in batches until all are cooked. Drain on kitchen paper, patting well to remove excess oil.
Melt butter in a saucepan and onion until golden – at least 10 minutes. once the roasted eggplants are cool enough to handle, peel them and chop the flesh. Arrange half of the fryed eggplant slices on the base of your baking dish. Combine all your parmesan with half of your gruyere and sprinkle half of this mixture over the eggplant slices. Arrange all the tomato halves over the cheese. Combine onions with the chopped and roasted eggplant, cinnamon, salt & pepper and spread over the tomatoes. Sprinkle over parsley, pinenuts and the remaining parmesan/gruyere mixture. Top with remaining eggplant slices and then bechemal sauce. Sprinkle over the remaining gruyere and bake for about 30 – 40 minutes, until golden.
Yield: 6 as a main or 8 – 10 as a side
Source: Jannis Kyritsis, Wild Weed Pie