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Ramadan recipes: Moussaka with bechamel
Published in Almasry Alyoum on 15 - 08 - 2010

Moussaka, a Mediterranean staple, is divided into three separate ingredient sets that make up the layers of this fabulously delicious dish. Although what is traditionally known as Egyptian moussaka (misa'aa) is made very differently from the 'Greek' version described below, both have elements in common.
The process of making this particular kind moussaka can be relatively tedious, however, and if you're planning to cook or prepare other dishes alongside it, I would suggest you cook the separate elements a day before and then assemble them an hour and a half before serving. The meat, for example, can be prepared the day before, cooled and kept overnight in the fridge.
1/2 kg ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 jar tomato paste
2 peppers, one yellow and one red, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
A dash of powdered mint
1. Start by heating the oil and adding in the ground beef. Cook until brown.
2. Add salt and pepper, mix in chopped onion and garlic cloves. Cook until onion yellows.
3. Mix in tomato paste, peppers, cinnamon, oregano, parsley and mint to taste.
4. Mix well and allow to simmer until it thickens.
The bechamel can also be prepared a day before and kept overnight in the fridge.
1/3 cup butter (approximately 6 tablespoons)
1/2 cup flour
3 cups (.75 liters) of milk
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Whisk together butter and flour over medium flame.
2. Slowly add 3 cups milk while whisking.
3. Bring to a boil, still whisking, and let simmer for a couple of minutes.
4. Use a measuring cup with a handle to remove some milk/flour and add in beaten eggs. (This serves to slowly heat the eggs rather than cook them, so as to avoid ending up with scrambled egg bechamel.)
5. While still whisking, slowly pour egg/milk mixture back into white sauce and whisk until thick, without allowing to boil. Turn off heat and stir in spoon of nutmeg. Allow white sauce to cool.
Preparing the eggplant is a process all its own. Salting and sweating out the eggplant slices can take up to 30 minutes, so I suggest beginning this step while finishing off another.
1 kg large round dark eggplant (bitingan rumi), peeled and sliced to desired thickness
olive oil
1. Peel and slice eggplants and lay out on baking sheet.
2. Sprinkle with salt and allow eggplant slices to 'sweat' for 30 minutes.
3. After 30 minutes, pat eggplant slices dry and heat a little olive oil for frying.
4. Fry eggplant slices in oil, keeping in mind that eggplants absorb oil and if you add too much, you will end up with very greasy eggplants. This means you will have to keep adding small bits of oil every time you add new slices (tedious but worth it).
5. Allow fried eggplant slices to dry out on paper towel.
Once all this is done, you are ready to assemble the dish. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
Meat sauce
Parmesan cheese, thinly grated
1 cup breadcrumbs
Casserole dish with cover (or cover in foil)
1. Cover bottom of your casserole dish with fried eggplant (keep in mind this should be 1/2 of your eggplant stock).
2. Add layer of meat sauce consisting of about 1/2 the meat sauce cooked.
3. Add a layer of bechamel, also roughly 1/2 of your prepared bechamel.
4. Add another layer of eggplant, finishing it off.
5. Add another layer of meat sauce, finishing it off.
6. Top with a layer of bechamel, which should ideally cover your meat so that it doesn't show.
7. Sprinkle the bechamel topping with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
8. Cover and cook for 1 hour, then uncover to broil for 5 minutes to brown breadcrumbs and bechamel.

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