Zucchini and Eggplant Moussaka with Creamy Ricotta Bechamel Sauce

A delicious variation of the traditional moussaka. The Eggplant and zucchini layers alternate with a smooth herbed tomato and mince sauce and finally topped with a creamy ricotta bechamel sauce. This version, isn’t oily and heavy, and is richly flavoured with copious amounts of garlic and herbs. The Zucchini and eggplant is grilled not fried and lightly sprayed with olive oil before cooking.

Grilled zucchini is surprisingly sweet and adds a nice balance to the eggplant. Certainly worth trying out cooked this way before deciding to omit.  Zucchini and eggplant have  a certain stigma in Australia. Many australians don’t include these vegetables in their everyday cooking which is a shame. If your not sure what to do with them, turn to Greek cuisine for inspiration.  This heavenly dish  perfect if you have children in the house who are not used to vegetables. Nicely disguised in smooth mince sauce.

Tips:

  • Always use fresh herbs never dry.
  • In the ingredients you will notice fresh overripe tomatoes listen in the ingredients.
  • To reproduce that full flavour of Mediterranean tomatoes, place them on your window-sill somewhere where your tomatoes will catch the morning light. Leave for two days and the most magical thing happens: your tomatoes become vibrant red and the flavour is equally luscious. As you can imagine this impacts on the colour and taste of your sauce.

Part of the bottom layer is made of potato but you can omit and replace with  grilled eggplant.

Ingredients

3 medium sized eggplants

2 zucchinis 2 medium potatoes

3 cloves garlic

1 healthy Bunch Fresh parsley

1 sprig  fresh basil

2 overripe large fresh tomatoes

1 medium onion finely chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

250g passata or ( tinned diced tomato with Pulp)

2 x 500 gram lean beef mince

3 tbspns olive oil

Olive oil for spraying

Bechamel sauce

3 cups milk warmed

1/4 of a cup ricotta cheese

1/4 of a cup parmigiana

50 grams butter

3 heaped tablespoons flour

2 eggs

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 pinch allspice

Method

Cut the tomatoes and add into a food processor Blitz until smooth.

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Finely chop the onion and garlic.

Slice of zucchini eggplant and potatoes into 1 centimetre thick pieces cut lengthwise.

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Line the baking dish with foil.

To use the least amount of olive oil  spray both surfaces of the vegetables and place using a slightly overlapping placement onto the dish.

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Set the oven on grill apx 200 degrees. Grill both sides.  The vegetables should have a healthy golden glow. Keep an eye on the vegetables as they’re being grilled as it is very easy to burn.

In a large saucepan add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Turn stovetop on high and add your mince. Brown the mince and stir continuously,  break up any pieces of mince that have clumped together. Use a potato masher is perfect to smooth out any clumps of mince.

The picture below shows how your mince should look like at this stage. Smooth, evenly cooked with no clumps.

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Add the finely chopped onions and garlic, stir through the tomato paste and wine. Allow to cook for couple of minutes then pour the passata and fresh tomato juice.

Stir intermittently, add water and herbs. Cook for 30 minutes. Allow juice to reduce until it is creamy and thick. If the juices have evaporated too much, add a little more water and continue simmering.

The baking dish should be apx 15cm deep and 30cm long, with vertical sides for nice sectional pieces when cut.

Ricotta Sauce

Start with melting butter in a medium sized saucepan on medium heat.  Add flour and mix until both are well incorporated into each other. Slowly add one quarter of milk, stir continuuously, until you feel the sauce thickening slightly. Add a little more milk, stir, let it thicken a little and add your final amount of milk. Keep on stirring and adjust the heat if you feel it’s cooking too fast and ‘catching’ on the bottom of saucepan. Switch heat to low. Add ricotta and parmeggano, stir while the cheese melts into sauce. Turn heat off.

Add two eggs lightly beaten quickly and stir through with the whisk. Allow sauce to cool down.

Merging layers

Spray bottom layer with olive oil, add grilled potato. With a laddle add mince. The mince layers should be 1-2cm thick. Add a layer of eggplant or zucchini , then another layer of mince, finish off with a layer of the grilled vegetables.

Pour sauce over top. It should. Be a nice thick layer. Sprinkle nutmeg and allspice maybe a little reserved parmesan.

Cook on 180 degree Celsius oven for 50 mins approximately. The dish should be in the middle of the oven. Allow sides of sauce to cook crispy and top to be a little darker than golden. Turn oven off, allow dish to cool for 30mins before cutting into serving sized pieces.

This makes 8-10 healthy sized pieces.

Enjoy.

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