Tag Archives: aubergines

Low fat moussaka

13 Nov

 

Moussaka is recognised as the traditional dish of Greece. I have many happy memories of our times in Greece, sitting in the sunshine looking out over turquoise blue seas, eating this with a Greek Salad on the side and maybe a glass or two of Retsina. If you were lucky the Retsina would be served in a bottle, chilled, but in our early visits there were no such luxuries and it would be decanted from huge barrels into a copper jug. It’s a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it and some think it tastes like turpentine. I absolutely love it and have a copper jug at home that I decant the bottle into for authenticity. If I close my eyes I am transported back to those idyllic shores with my first sip of wine.

The traditional recipe for Moussaka will include frying the aubergines and using a Béchamel sauce for the topping.  I have adapted this recipe so that it is lower in fat but retains the authentic flavours. Terry’s Greek Grandmother would be mortified but my Slimming World Consultant would give me a pat on the head.  Sorry YaYa. If you are using the cheese as your Healthy Option A it is, by my reckoning, Syn free, for those, like myself, who follow Slimming World food optimising. If you want to be truly authentic however, and you are not concerned about the amount of fat in your diet, feel free to replace the yogurt topping with Béchamel sauce although I would still cook the aubergines as below.

Low fat Moussaka.            Serves 4

  • 2 large aubergines, sliced into rings about 1/2 inch thick
  • 500g beef mince (5% fat)
  • Spray Olive oil or Frylight
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 X 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 60 ml red wine
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 X 175g Fage 0% Natural Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 35g low-fat cheddar, grated

1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil then blanch the aubergine slices in batches for 5 minutes. Remove and place in a single layer onto kitchen paper to drain. Discard water.
2. In another large pan, spray with one cal olive oil and sauté the onion until softened but not browned. Add beef and continue cooking over low heat until browned, about 10 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes, garlic, cinnamon, allspice and seasoning. Mix well. Add the wine and purée and a little water if it looks too dry. Cover and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, adding a little water if it is going dry. Remove cover and cook for 15 minutes more to allow excess water to evaporate. You are aiming for a thick meat sauce. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
4. Spray a fairly deep, square ovenproof dish with one cal. Put a layer of aubergines in the base (doesn’t need to be totally covered), followed by a layer of meat sauce. Repeat the finish with a final layer of aubergines.
5. In a bowl, beat the yogurt then beat in the eggs. Add half the cheese. Mix well then pour over top of dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese then bake in preheated oven (180C/170C fan/Gas 4) for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the top is golden and base heated through.
6. Remove from oven and allow to stand for about 10 minutes so the top firms up. Serve with a mixed salad if you like.

 

 

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Melanzane, all the flavours of the Mediterranean.

15 Mar

  My daughter-in-law is vegetarian and I am always on the look out for tasty vegetarian recipes.  The funny thing is that, since I have started doing this, my husband has started eating vegetarian meals and loving them.  I never thought I would see the day.  This recipe is an excellent example of a meal Terry can’t get enough of.  He loved it so much the first time we had it, that he ate the leftovers for lunch on the next two days.  That’s another thing that is unheard of!

I’m not sure what I like best about this meal.  It’s a bit fiddley to make but, once all the layers are prepared, takes second to put together.  It’s a meal in itself, just eat it with crusty bread.  It warms up well and I have even frozen it successfully.  Best of all though, is the creamy taste of the cheese sauce as it melds with the tomatoes and aubergines.  Mmm!

The dish is from Southern Italy.  There are numerous recipes for it, you will find one in almost all Italian cookbooks and I have seen a few over the years in the cooking journals I subscribe to.  I can’t remember where I saw this recipe as it was so long ago, but I have made it numerous times, at home and on holiday, and it always turns out the same, delicious.  If you are trying to watch the calories I believe it will turn out just as well if you make the sauce with semi-skimmed milk and use half fat cheddar.  There is very little fat in the remainder of the dish as the aubergines are blanched rather than fried.  As they absorb so much fat when fried, this will automatically make the dish lower in fat and healthier.

Aubergines are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cooking so it would be easy to assume they originated there.  Not so!  Aubergines are native to India and it is thought it was introduced to the Mediterranean area by the Arabs in the Middle Ages.  There are numerous varieties.   The most common in Europe and North America is the large, deep purple variety.  In Thai they prefer the small berry type, sometimes green and sometimes pale purple.  Indian cuisine favours the small round or long thin purple fruit.  The seeds are bitter as they contain nicotinoid alkaloids, not surprisingly as it is related to the tobacco plant.  At one time aubergines were thought to be poisonous as they are related to the Nightshade family but in India they use it daily in cooking and even grind it to a paste to help heal wounds.

Anyway, to the recipe.

Melanzane

  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 2 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 700g jar passata
  • 6 ripe tomatoes, skinned and deseeded
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1tsp caster sugar
  • 2 large aubergines, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 500ml/1 pt cheese sauce (bought or home-made)
  • 100g Parmesan, grated.
  1. Preheat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
  2. Make the tomato sauce by heat oil in a deep frying pan and frying the onions for 4 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes, making sure it does not burn.  Add passata, chopped tomatoes, oregano and sugar.  Bring to boil and remove immediately from the heat.  Set aside.
  3. Make the cheese sauce (if using) by adding 2oz/50g butter, 1.5 oz/37g plain flour and 500 ml/1pt milk in a pan over a medium heat.  Whisk continually until the sauce thickens.  Add 4oz/100g grated cheddar cheese and 1 tsp English Mustard.  Set aside.
  4. Blanch the aubergine slices in a large pan of boiling salted water for about 5 minutes until softened but still holding their shape.  Drain onto kitchen paper.
  5. To assemble the dish, place half the tomato sauce in the bottom of a ovenproof dish.  Arrange half the aubergines on top then drizzle with the cheese sauce.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Repeat ending with the remaining cheese sauce and grated parmesan.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

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Moussaka – memories of Greece

19 Nov

DSCI0391There are certain dishes that will always be reminders of holidays in Greece and this is one of them. Moussaka is often referred to as the national dish of Greece but can often be oily so preparation is a key factor for a good moussaka. I made the mistake of cooking mine just before serving so the sauce was a bit runny, or maybe I just didn’t make it thick enough in the first place. Either way it did not impair the flavour as it was delicious and, when cold, looked the part as well.

Some people add potatoes to Moussaka which does help the solidity of the finished dish but is definitely not a traditional ingredient. You can, however, use courgettes instead of aubergines if you wish.

Aubergines are the most commonly used vegetable in Greece and the most versatile. They taste better if fried before adding to a dish but they do absorb a lot of oil so, if you are frying them, make sure you reduce the oil in the finished dish to compensate.

They can also have a slightly bitter taste which has to be treated before cooking. There are two ways of doing this. the first way is to slice them then submerge the slices in salted water for at least half an hour. Rinse them well under cold running water, squeezing gently so that the slightly brown water runs away then drain them for at least half an hour and pat dry to prevent fat spitting during cooking.

The second is to slice them and sprinkle with salt as I have done in this recipe.

What is even more important is selection of aubergines. They should be shiny, firm and tight-skinned without any brown patches or scarring.

Here is the recipe

Moussaka  Serves 6 to 12 (depending on whether it is served as a main dish or as part of a mezes)

  • 2 large aubergines, trimmed and sliced into rings about 1/2 inch thick
  • salt
  • olive oil for brushing
  • handful of fresh white breadcrumbs
  • Grated cheddar cheese

For the Bechamel

  • 100g/40z butter
  • 100g/4oz plain flour
  • 2 pts full fat milk
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch grated nutmeg
  • 3 egg yolks

For the meat sauce

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 kg lean minced beef or lamb
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground allspice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 120 ml dry red wine.
  1. Lay the aubergine slices on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt. Leave to sweat for 1/2 hour the rinse well under cold running water. drain and pat dry.
  2. Lay the aubergines in batches on a rack in a grill pan. Brush with olive il and grill for 4 minutes or until golden, turn over and repeat. set aside.
  3. To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a large pan then add the flour. Mix well and cook for 30 seconds. Gradually add the milk either stirring or whisking all the time to prevent curdling. Heat gently, stirring continuously until the sauce is thick and bubbling. Remove from the heat and season to taste.  Add the nutmeg. Cool slightly then beat in the egg yolks. Cover with a piece of greaseproof paper to prevent a skin from forming and set aside.
  4. To make the meat sauce, heat the olive oil in a large pan and saute the onion until softened. Add the minced meat and cook, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes until browned all over. Add the tomatoes, garlic and spices and season. Stir in the tomato puree and the red wine.
  5. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for about 45 minutes. remove the cover for the last 15 minutes to allow all the moisture to evaporate. Set aside and cool slightly.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180C/170C fan/gas 4.
  7. Sprinkle the bottom of a large ovenproof dish with the breadcrumbs. Arrange a layer of aubergine on top followed by a layer of the meat mixture. Continue layering like this, finishing with a layer of aubergine.Carefully pour the sauce over the top and spread evenly. Sprinkle with some grated cheddar cheese and bake in the oven for 1 hour or until the top is golden brown and the moussaka is heated through.  Serve warm.

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