Goat’s cheese and pine nut moussaka

20 November 2012

Goat's cheese and pine nut moussaka The complex flavours of many of my favourite foods have aspects that – in isolation – would be quite unpleasant. Blue cheese can be a bit footy, parmesan vomity, and coriander soapy. Likewise, Niki Segnit points out that both goat’s cheese and lamb taste a bit “sweaty”, and therefore complement each other beautifully. I also found myself with a lot of spare pine nuts, which is how this dish came into being.

  • For six servings:
    2 eggplants
    1 onion, diced
    5–8 garlic cloves, minced
    300–500 g lamb mince
    400 g tin of tomatoes
    Generous pinch of dried oregano
    Smoked salt; or regular salt, and pepper or chilli
    80–100 g butter
    80–100 g flour (equal weight to butter)
    About 1 litre milk
    2 eggs
    200 g soft goat’s cheese, such as feta
    Freshly grated nutmeg
    Fresh breadcrumbs
    50 g pine nuts, roughly chopped
    Olive oil
    Salt and pepper
  • Slice the eggplants into rounds, about one centimetre thick. Lay them out on trays on top of paper towels. Salt the rounds on both sides, lay more paper towels on top, and leave for thirty minutes to an hour.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C fan forced. When the oven is hot, pat down the eggplant rounds until dry. Lay the rounds on baking trays and brush with a little olive oil. Bake for 15–20 minutes, until soft. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, fry the onion in a knob of butter over a low heat for 5–10 minutes, until soft, then add the garlic and fry for a further 30 seconds. Add the lamb mince and cook until brown, then incorporate the tomatoes, oregano, and smoked salt. Cover, and leave the sauce cooking on a low heat while you prepare the rest of the dish. Check it every now and then, adding water if necessary to prevent the sauce from getting too thick and dry.
  • Next, make a béchamel sauce. Melt the 80–100 grams of butter over a low heat in a thick-bottomed pot. Add the flour and stir quickly, to make a thick roux. It is important when making béchamel to add the milk gradually to prevent lumps from forming. Turn the heat up to medium, add a little milk, and stir vigorously until the sauce is smooth. Repeat until the sauce reaches a pourable consistency, similar to thin yoghurt or thick pancake batter. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition, then whisk in the goat’s cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  • To arrange the moussaka, start by spreading a little meat sauce across the bottom of a deep baking dish, to prevent sticking. Layer eggplants and meat sauce, then pour the béchamel over the top. Sprinkle over a layer of breadcrumbs, then the pine nuts. Optionally, coating the breadcrumbs with a little melted butter (or olive oil) helps them become crispy.
  • Bake for 30–40 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let the moussaka rest for about 15 minutes before serving to give the layers a chance to settle.