We had a lovely Diwali season this year. It wasn’t full of card parties and random people whom we will never meet again, it was full of real friends, food and total fun. I spent 4 blissful days in the kitchen and we only finished the leftovers last night! Thank god because as the cook there is absolutely no fun in cooking an entire meal and then eating it for 3 days straight! One of the important dinners of the week was for a set of Korean friends, a lovely young couple who happened to own the only Korean restaurant in the city. Along with them we were expecting yet another foodie friend who’s knowledge of food and love for food made me slightly nervous. So this one had to go off well!
The menu was insane according to Andy, though I always feel a huge spread is simply endearing! The ultimate picture of people having a good time, at least in my head is one with a huge dining table, laden with food, with arms passing all kinds of bowls and platters back and forth and the comforting din of people talking and laughing! Fortunately for us, the evening turned out exactly like that. Here’s a peek at the menu –
Starters: Lamb chops (ya ya I know, I always do them!), Mince Snackers,
Dips: Thoum, Hoummous, Baba Ghanoush
Salad: Iceberg, Romaine and Swiss Chard combo and another one with grilled cherry tomatoes, bocconcini and deep fried babycorn
Main Course: Lamb Moussaka, Malay Fish Curry, Prawn and Okra curry, Foccacia bread and steamed rice
Dessert: Tiramisu and homemade chocolate truffles
For the Mince:
½ kg lamb mince (beef is even better)
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 large tomatoes cubed
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
8 cloves of garlic smashed
2 tsbp of olive oil
1 tsp red chilli flakes
Salt and pepper seasoning
Saute the onions and garlic till light brown. Add the mince and sauté for another 5 mins, I like adding the pepper now, I love the way it sears all over the meat. I like the sauce peppery too but it’s a lovely flavour to rub off on the meat. Add the tomatoes, cook for few minutes and add the sauces with some salt and more pepper. Hold the herbs for the end, I don’t like cooking herbs too much especially if they are dried herbs. Cook covered for about 10 mins on low flame. Sprinkle the herb seasoning on top and keep covered.
1 large round Brinjal, that’s what the round one is called so you can even ask for aubergines just ask for the round ones. Slice them thin and even, sprinkle with salt and leave standing in a plate for about 15-20 mins. This makes all the excess moisture and bitterness leave the vegetable. You can keep the plate at an angle so that the excess drains off.
2 firm potatoes, thinly sliced
Olive oil for shallow frying
Heat oil in a frying pan, just enough for shallow frying, fry the potato slices first and set aside then the aubergine slices. The aubergine soaks a lot of oil, that will help it fry better, so don’t add more. Keep these aside for assembly.
The Sauce: this is a basic béchamel with a seasoning of mixed Italian herbs – oregano, rosemary, thyme and basil, I used only these.
100 gms flour
100 gms butter
1 lt. Milk
Seasoning of herbs, salt and preferably white pepper or the sauce gets all spotted and gritty looking.
The Topping: Grated cheese, mix cheddar and parmesan – 1 full cup
Melt butter (use a double boiler if you need too), add the flour and lightly sauté for few minutes, the texture should be like butter coloured breadcrumbs. Take off the fire, cool for few minutes and add warm milk. Add in two batches, so you can gauge how your sauce is thickening. Thicken to the consistency of cake batter, season well and reserve for assembly. This sauce will thicken as it sits, so it is better to make it last, just before assembling the dish.
Now that you have your mince filling, fried veggie slices and sauce ready, you can start putting together the moussaka. Use an 8 inch pyrex dish or a shallow square baking dish. Lightly grease with olive oil. Make a base of the fried potato slices. Top it up with all the mince. Lather the mince with the rich and creamy white sauce, sprinkle some Italian seasoning on top, it gets nice and roasted when you serve. Add the grated cheese finally and bake for 5-7 mins on 200 C or till the cheese melts and browns! Another topping suggestion is to add 2-3 slices of tomatoes and 2-3 slices of fried aubergines on the cheese, so when it melts, these veggie slices settle in and simply look pretty!
The coolest part of the evening was when I saw both Jin and his wife Harim loving the moussaka even though Koreans don’t eat lamb, it’s not in their food culture and they actually find it smelly! The evening was as warm and wonderful as this hearty meaty dish. Enjoy it with a nice crusty bread.