How to cook moussaka – recipe | Felicity Cloake’s Masterclass (2024)

Moussaka is, I think, the perfect dish for April, a rare combination of southern sunshine and warming comfort. It’s also the ideal way to use up leftover lamb from the Easter roast. Most widely associated with Greece, it pops up in various forms from North Africa to the Balkans – sweetly spiced, rich and wobbly, and always utterly delicious.

Prep 15 min
Salt 30 min (optional)
Cook 1 hr 35 min
Serves 4, generously

500g minced lamb (see step 1)
3 medium (or 2 large) aubergines
Fine sea salt and black pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves
1½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp tomato purée
150ml red wine
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, picked and chopped

For the béchamel
500ml milk
60g butter
60g plain flour
50g kefalotyri (or pecorino)
2 eggs, beaten
Nutmeg, to grate

1 Lamb is not the only meat

Though I like moussaka made with lamb – I think the spices work better with its sweet flavour – in its homeland, the dish is often made with veal or beef mince, so feel free to use the same weight of one of those instead, or, indeed, goat, hogget or mutton mince. Alternatively, finely chop 500g leftover roast meat, discarding any skin.

How to cook moussaka – recipe | Felicity Cloake’s Masterclass (1)

2 Season the aubergines

Cut the aubergines lengthways into roughly ½cm- thick slices, put in a colander and salt lightly. Leave to sit for 30 minutes, then rinse and pat dry. (This step isn’t essential, especially if you’re in a hurry, but I think it gives the finished dish a better flavour than seasoning at the end.) Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6.

3 Bake the aubergines

Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides (seasoning them well, too, if you skipped the salting in step 2), then arrange on a baking sheet (or two, if need be). Bake for about 25 minutes, until soft and golden, but not brown – keep an eye on them towards the end of the cooking time – then turn off the oven for now.

4 Fry the onions and garlic

While the aubergines are roasting, peel and finely chop the onion and garlic, and put two tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Cook the onion until soft and golden, but not browned, then stir in the garlic, cinnamon and oregano, and fry for a couple of minutes more, just until the garlic loses its raw smell.

5 Brown the mince

Turn up the heat slightly and add the meat, stirring to break up any lumps. Cook until the mince is well browned and the mixture is fairly dry, then season to taste. If you’re using meat that’s already cooked, just stir-fry it for a couple of minutes to heat through.

How to cook moussaka – recipe | Felicity Cloake’s Masterclass (2)

6 Add the liquids and leave to stew

Measure out 150ml water, beat a little of it into the tomato puree to loosen it, then pour the paste, the wine and the rest of the water into the pan. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat right down and leave to cook gently for 30-40 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and you have a thick meat sauce. Check and adjust the seasoning again.

7 Make the white sauce

While the meat sauce is reducing, make a bechamel. Pour the milk into a small pan and, on a low-ish heat, bring to just below a boil. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium heat, and stir in the flour. Cook for a couple of minutes, until it begins to smell toasty, then whisk in the hot milk bit by bit, and cook, stirring often, until the sauce thickens.

How to cook moussaka – recipe | Felicity Cloake’s Masterclass (3)

8 Add the cheese and eggs

Grate the cheese and stir it into the white sauce, then take off the heat and leave to cool slightly. Heat the oven back up to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Beat the eggs into the white sauce and season to taste with salt and nutmeg, being bold with the latter; this dish can take it. Stir the chopped parsley into the meat sauce and season again to taste.

How to cook moussaka – recipe | Felicity Cloake’s Masterclass (4)

9 Assemble, cook – and cool

Arrange a third of the aubergines in the base of a lightly greased oven dish and top with half the meat. Repeat these layers, finishing with a layer of aubergine, then top with the bechamel. Bake for about 45 minutes, until well browned, then leave to cool to just warm before serving. Trust me, the cooler serving temperature makes all the difference.

How to cook moussaka – recipe | Felicity Cloake’s Masterclass (2024)
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