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13th Jun, 2021

Recipes From My Travels - Paul's classic Greek dish Moussaka in tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh

Solihull Editorial 8th May, 2021

CHEF and blogger Paul James writes for our paper. 

The passing of HRH Prince Phillip was truly a sad time for Great Britain, the commonwealth and the rest of the world.

Greece and in particular Corfu is one of my favourite places – not only for its amazing food, but the history it is steeped in.

Prince Phillip was born on the island of Corfu in June 1921 in the family’s villa ‘Mon Repos’ as it was called.

In fact his mother gave birth to him on the kitchen’s wooden table, under the insistence of the doctor, who said the bed wasn’t appropriate, so she was taken downstairs and placed on the comfortably arranged wooden table.

The villa, known for its park gardens and neoclassical architecture, now belongs to the Greek government and was restored in the 1990s. It also features a plaque that marks its status as Philip’s place of birth.

Just a year after his birth, Philip was smuggled out of Greece in an orange crate, aged 18 months, during the Greco-Turkish War.

In fact it was suggested that HRH Prince Phillip made a secret visit back to his childhood home 30 years after leaving.

May he rest in peace.

May time in Corfu brings up another celebration, the unification of the Ionian islands.

After the liberation of Greece and the establishment of the Greek State, the Ionian Islands demanded their unification with Greece.

Despite its strong objection, Britain-together with France and Russia-signed on June 5, 1863, the Treaty of London, according to which Britain gave up its role as the head of state of the Ionian Islands and on May 21, 1864, the Ionian Islands were officially united back with Greece.

On this day, every year a parade takes place in Corfu town where most of the community dress up in traditional Corfu costumes to celebrate.

Okay, that’s your history lesson finished for today so let’s get on to one of Greece’s most popular dishes – Moussaka.

It’s a bit of a replica of the Italian lasagna but using aubergine instead of pasta and plus a few little Greek ingredients added to make this a lovely dish that can be eaten hot or cold.

Visit facebook.com/RECIPESFROMMYTRAVELS for Paul’s blog.

MOUSSAKA

Ingredients

3 aubergines cut length ways about 5mm thick.

500g of lamb mince (or beef if you prefer)

1 onion finely sliced

1 garlic clove finely sliced (or 2tsp of garlic purée)

1 tbsp of dried oregano

Spray of low calorie vegetable oil

1 bay leaf

1tbsp of ground cinnamon

400g tinned tomatoes

2tbsp tomato purée

4 large potatoes par boiled, cooled down and sliced into 5mm rounds

A good handful of Grated cheese

BÉCHAMEL SAUCE

40g of unsalted butter

40g of plain flour

450ml milk

40g cheese grated

1tsp of ground nutmeg

Method

1. Heat a frying pan over a high heat. Spray vegetable oil over the slices of aubergine and fry them for 5 to 7mins or until golden brown and beginning to soften. If they look a little dry during cooking, add another spray of oil. Set aside on a plate lined with kitchen paper.

2. Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the mince and fry for 8 to 10mins until a deep golden brown, drain any excess fat from the mince and tip in the finely sliced onion along with a pinch of salt and fry gently for 10 to 12mins or until softened and turning translucent. Add the garlic, oregano, cinnamon and bay leaf and cook for a further couple of minutes.

3, Add the tomatoes and tomato purée along with 200ml water, then reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 20mins, stirring occasionally until the sauce has thickened.

4. Now for the béchamel sauce (you can use packet sauce if you want, but it’s pretty easy and quite satisfying when it all comes together)

5. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, stir in the flour and cook over a medium heat for 1min. Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk, pouring in a bit at a time, until smooth. Return to the heat and bring to a simmer, cooking for 3mins. Remove from the heat and add in the grated cheese, stirring through gently , add the nutmeg and season to taste.

Now to assemble your dish.

6. In a rectangle casserole dish, spoon a layer of the meat and spread out evenly, add a layer of aubergine and then a layer of the sliced par boiled potatoes.

7. Add a small covering of the béchamel sauce, then repeat the whole process once again.

8. Now this is where I differ from most recipes, instead of putting it in the oven at this stage I smooth over the béchamel with a palate knife, then I sprinkle a generous amount of grated cheese on top.

9. Place in a preheated oven at 180c for about 40 to 50 minutes or until the cheese is beginning to brown beautifully and the lamb mixture is thoroughly cooked and piping hot.

10. Remove from the oven, leave to stand for about 15 minutes then serve with a nice beetroot salad and a selection of baby tomatoes (a nice little change from feta salad).

Serve and enjoy.

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