Do you have guests coming over and want it to look like you care about them more than you do? This menu is a winner.
Assuming you have a couple of basics in your larder, the moussaka is straight forward enough and especially good because the potato and aubergine are treated and then fried. A lemon cream and blackberry compote rounds the dinner off nicely. So make your friends think they’re worth at least €20 – when they’re actually only worth a little over a fiver.
Moussaka served with sauteed baby spinach with garlic:
1 Aubergine, sliced
125ml olive oil
1 small onion. finely chopped
1 clove of garlic
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
400g organic minced beef
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
125ml white wine
1/2 tin of tomatoes
60g plain flour
1/2 litre warm milk
A little grated nutmeg
Sauteed spinach and garlic:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of baby spinach
3 cloves garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced
1. Firstly draw out the bitter juices from the aubergine by sprinkling a generous amount of salt on them and set aside in a bowl for 30 minutes.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick saucepan. Saute the onion until lightly golden. Add the parsley and garlic and cook for a minute and then add the mince. Cook over a medium heat until the meat looses its water.
3. Add the cinnamon, oregano and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.
4. When the mince is golden, add the wine. When the wine has evaporated, add the tin of tomatoes and leave it to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring now and then.
5. Slice the potatoes lengthways and pat them dry. Fry 5 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick pan and fry the potato slices in batches over a medium heat until they are golden brown on both sides. Place on kitchen paper to absorb oil and set aside.
6. Rinse the salt off the aubergine with cold water and pat dry. Fry in batches in the same pan and oil as the potatoes. When underside is golden, turn over and prick with a fork in several place and cook for a further couple of minutes until softened. Place on kitchen paper to absorb oil and set aside.
7. Preheat the oven to gas mark 180C (Gas 4). Arrange half the aubergine over the base of an oven proof dish. Then add the potato in a single layer. Add half the mince, the rest of the aubergine and then finally add the rest of the mince.
8. For the bechamel sauce; melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, then begin gradually adding the warm milk whisking all the time. When the sauce is smooth, add the salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg and continue to cook for a couple of minutes stirring all the time. Spoon sauce over the mince.
9. Bake for 45 minutes or until the Moussaka begins to bubble up and the top is golden brown.
For the sauteed spinach with garlic:
In a large pan, heat the oil over high heat until very hot, almost smoking. Add the spinach and cook; stirring continuously, for about 1 to 2 minutes, the spinach should turn bright green. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 30 seconds. Serve immediately.
Lemon cream with blackberries:
For the lemon cream:
600ml double cream
250g caster sugar
Juice and zest of 5 lemons
For the blackberry compote:
400g of fresh or defrosted blackberries
150g caster sugar
1. Place the double cream in a pan and bring to the boil. Add the sugar and reduce the heat and simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
2. Add the lemon zest and juice and stir for a minute. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Place the lemon cream into glasses and let set in the fridge for 2 hours.
3. Place the blackberries and sugar in a pan and simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
4. When ready to serve pour the blackberry compote over the top of the lemon cream and serve.
1 Aubergine €0.79c each
1 organic onion 20c (€1.49 for 750g net)
1 clove of garlic (59c for three bulbs)
400g organic minced beef €1.84
1/2 can of chopped tomatoes €0.18 (€35c for 400g can)
250g organic potatoes €0.36 (€2.89 for 2lb)
Caster sugar €0.75 (€1.50 for 1kg bag)
4 lemons €1.29 (€0.89 for a net of three)
Baby spinach €0.89 per bag
I picked the blackberries myself but I saw punnets of blackberries for €1 in Dunnes.