COOK THE NATIONAL DISH OF GREECE: MOUSSAKA

RECIPE FOR THE NATIONAL DISH OF GREECE: MOUSSAKA 

For this episode of EAT THE WORLD, our attempt to cook and eat a meal and watch a movie from every single country in the world, we traveled to Greece, on the request of some good friends! I have never traveled to Greece, but had many Greek friends growing up in South Africa. There are numerous amazing Greek restaurants in my hometown of Johannesburg, and even here in the States, I already have a favorite Greek restaurant picked out, mainly because it serves Greek salads the traditional way - without lettuce! Because who needs lettuce! The national dish of Greece is Moussaka, and we paired it with my favorite kind of salad - a greek one! 

MOUSSAKA RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

EGGPLANT

  • 2 large eggplants (aubergines), cut into ¼ inch slices
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

FILLING

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1.4lb ground beef 
  • 14oz crushed tomatoes 
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste 
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp salt

BECHAMEL SAUCE

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 5 tbsp plain flour
  • 3 cups milk 
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese 
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk 
  • Salt and pepper

TOPPING

  • ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs 

DIRECTIONS

EGGPLANT

  1. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and place them on top of each other in a large colander. Leave to sweat for 30 minutes, then pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Preheat oven to 200C/390F.
  3. Lay eggplant onto two large baking trays, brush with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes or until just softened. Remove and set aside to cool.

FILLING

  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat, then cook the garlic and onion for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, then cover, lower heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.

BECHAMEL SAUCE

  1. Melt butter in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, using a whisk to keep it moving.
  3. Add 1 cup of milk and whisk to combine. It will thicken quite quickly, then add the remaining milk. Whisk until smooth then cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until it thickens so that it thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  4. Remove from the stove and whisk in cheese. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then whisk the eggs in.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

ASSEMBLE MOUSSAKA 

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Place half the eggplant in the bottom of a baking dish then top with all the filling.
  3. Top with remaining eggplant, then pour over the Béchamel Sauce, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.
RECIPE FOR THE NATIONAL DISH OF GREECE: MOUSSAKA
RECIPE FOR THE NATIONAL DISH OF GREECE: MOUSSAKA

MOVIE PAIRING: captain corelli's mandolin

I am not Penelope Cruz's biggest fan, although my mother is Nicolas Cage's. This movie is a WWII romance, starring Cage and Cruz. Given it is actually a romance, Mr Traveling Ninja skipped out entirely. So when he says that he has eaten and watched a movie from every country in the world - he will be wrong! Anyway, Italy is allied with Germany and they conquer Greece. An Italian division of the artillery is sent to a Greek Island to establish order there. One of the officers, Captain Corelli, decides to befriend the Greeks and ends up trying to court the daughter of a doctor on the island. The daughter already has a greek fiance who is fighting in the war. Things heat up when Italy surrenders to the allies, and now the Italians must defend the island against the Germans. I love WWII movies, but this one didn't capture my interest much. Maybe it was Cage, maybe it was Cruz. Either way, a total meh and not a reflection on Greek food or Greece at all! I can't wait to travel to Greece one day, so I'll be in search of another great greek movie. Let me know if you have any suggestions. 

MOUSSAKA RECIPE FROM GREECE

THE TRAVELING NINJA VERDICT

This one was tough... A lot of elbow Greece to get it perfect

RATING: 7.2/10

THE TRAVELING GINGER VERDICT

Truthfully, I am not the biggest fan of dishes like this. The Moussaka was great, but I don't really like the texture of eggplant (aubergine). I wouldn't say this was my favorite dish at all, but I know that this is not reflective of the entire country's cuisine. I love Greek food regardless, so don't skip out on any on account of my viewpoints! The salad was amazing - as anything with feta usually is! The recipe wasn't as challenging as it seems, as long as you are organized and prepared ahead of time. Of course, you can see I burnt it slightly on top. Woops! 

RATING: 6.8/10

RECIPE FOR THE NATIONAL DISH OF GREECE: MOUSSAKA

Have you traveled to Greece? Have a favorite Greek dish? Let me know in the comments! 

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