Since last week, my (personal) Facebook page is filled with my adoration for moussaka. Yes, finally, after all those years and many broken hearts, I am in love….with moussaka!!
With the history full of ups and downs between Turkey and Greece, the food, however similar, has always been the issue of a bittersweet debate between the two countries. We say Turkish coffee, they say Greek coffee, we say this mezze is ours, they say that mezze is theirs, and so on so forth. The one common truth in all this debate is that all those dishes are just delicious and they each have their own equally delicious variations.
Take moussaka for example. My mother used to cook moussaka a lot, I think. I am slightly confused about what kind of dish she presented as moussaka though.. There was something with eggplant, than there was something with potato added, sometimes the dish involved ground meat, she called one thing “musakka” (yupp, the word moussaka in Turkish) and another thing “oturtma” (some kind of ragout, or stew, the dictionary translates to English).. Oh I don’t know there were so many of these dishes. I liked them all and ate without any objection, but as a kid with a poor appetite, I also didn’t exactly care for them, so looking back at those years, I honestly don’t know which dish was which.
The thing is, as I said before, I never objected to any of those dishes with eggplants however poor appetite I had, because I always absolutely loved eggplant. Make any dish with eggplant and I will be on board.
Yet, this moussaka is closer to Greek version. I do not eat meat too much anymore, so a while ago I started thinking what I could use to replace meat with, without turning this too much into a ratatouille. I saw versions with different kinds of vegetables, with lentils, with many other things, and in the end I decided to try cooking with mushrooms because Finland and mushrooms are almost identical in my head. So I bought a bunch of chanterelle (oh how beautiful you are, sweet chanterelle) aaaand here we are..
I saw that in the most traditional versions of moussaka, the vegetables, especially eggplant, are fried (not entirely, but a little bit at least, before going into the oven). I, on the other hand, didn’t want to fry anything so I put them straight into the oven as you will see in the recipe. I adapted the recipe from Akis Petretzikis’ meaty moussaka (basically, I replaced meat with chanterelle). Find the video recipe on Facebook if you want the meaty version (or if you want to watch a gorgeous Greek guy happily cooking – oh my….).
If you, on the other hand, want to just go to a restaurant in Helsinki and eat it (mostly for lunch), then go to “Cafetino” on Uudenmaankatu 19-21 – I ate just today the most delicious moussaka in town in this petit restaurant, which is cutely decorated and which has the loveliest chef / owner ever: Giorgios!
Difficulty: ★★☆ (Medium)
(Recipe is suitable for a deep oven pan, 26cm in diameter. You can use a rectangular dish, I would, but none of the ones I had was deep enough.)
(the amounts of veggies in the photo and in the list below change a bit because I adjusted the amounts while I was actually preparing the recipe)
1.5 – 2 medium sized eggplants (depending on the size of the pan you are using)
2 medium sized red onions
4 medium sized potatoes
olive oil (the amount will be explained in the instructions)
salt and pepper to taste (generous pinches, will explain in the instructions)
a handful of fresh oregano
a handful of fresh thyme
1 zucchini, about 250 gr.
400 gr. chanterelle (you can use another mushroom you like)
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 can chopped tomato with juice
For gluten free béchamel sauce on top:
100 gr. butter
100 gr. / 0.15 lt. rice flour
750 ml milk
a pinch of ground nutmeg
a pinch of black pepper
3 egg yolks
100 gr. grated parmesan, and a generous extra amount to sprinkle on top
1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
2. Slice the eggplants finely to make circles, put the slices in a bowl filled with water in room temperature and a little bit of salt. Leave the eggplant in this water for 30 minutes to eliminate the bitterness of eggplants.
3. Slice 1 red onion and the potatoes finely. Put them in a bowl, put a generous splash of olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and pepper and mix well.
4. Brush the base and sides of your pan with olive oil. Put potato/onion mixture in the pan, try to spread them evenly. Put in the oven, in middle rack, for 20 minutes.
5. Repeat the same with eggplants: put in a bowl, add olive oil, salt and pepper and this time add also a couple of sprigs of oregano and thyme (only the leaves). Mix well.
6. Put eggplants on top of potatoes once the potatoes are baked for 20 minutes. Spread evenly. Put the pan back in the oven, in middle rack, for 20 minutes more.
7. Slice zucchini finely, do exactly the same step as you did with eggplants. Spread on top of eggplants evenly, once the eggplants are baked for 20 minutes. Put the pan back in the oven, in medium rack, for 20 minutes more.
8. Dice the second red onion. Chop mushrooms, finely chop garlic clove.
9. In a medium pan, put a generous splash of olive oil in medium heat for about a minute. Saute the onion until it is translucent.
10. Add garlic and continue cooking.
11. Once both onion and garlic are cooked enough and are slightly brown, add cinnamon and tomato paste. Stir and continue cooking for about a minute, spreading the tomato evenly.
12. Add mushrooms. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
13. Add canned tomato. Stir and cook the whole thing until it gets well cooked and dry. Set aside to cool a little while you start preparing the béchamel sauce.
14. In a medium and a little deep pan, put butter on medium heat. Once half of the butter melts, add rice flour and whisk well, until all flour is covered and mixed with melted butter.
15. Add milk in 3 batches, whisking continuously with each batch, to prevent any lumps. Once all the milk is added and the sauce thickens, take it out of the heat.
16. Add, to the sauce, nutmeg, black pepper and 3 egg yolks and whisk, immediately, well.
17. Add parmesan cheese to the sauce and whisk again.
18. Add about 1/3 of béchamel sauce to the mushroom mixture and mix well. Spread this mushroom mixture on top of the baked veggies – spread evenly and smoothen the surface.
19. Spread rest of the sauce on top of the whole thing evenly, smoothen the surface. Sprinkle a generous amount of grated parmesan on top. Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, until the top gets browned. Let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour outside the oven after baking, before serving. Enjoy with some fresh, simple salad!