Moussaka with Potatoes and Eggplant
I have to say this moussaka with potatoes and eggplant is one of my absolute favorite dishes. Moussaka is popular in countries of the former Ottoman empire. There are lots of regional and local variations. This dish might be made with potatoes or eggplant, or both, and usually with ground lamb too.
Moussaka is eaten cold in Arabic countries, sauteed and served casserole style in Turkey, and layered and served hot in the Balkans. A lot of moussaka variations have an egg-thickened milk sauce on top, or a bechamel (flour-based) sauce.
Origin of the Word Moussaka
The word moussaka comes from mousakás, a Greek word, which came from the Turkish musakka and the Arabic musaqqa’ah, meaning chilled. The dish is usually based on ground meat, sauteed eggplant and tomato.
The Greek version has meat, eggplant and a bechamel sauce and it is baked in the oven. It is thought the Greek version dates back to the 1920s. The sliced eggplant layer on the bottom is topped with a ground lamb and tomato layer, and then you also have onion, garlic, allspice, cinnamon and black pepper in there for flavor. On top is a bechamel sauce layer.
Once prepared, the moussaka is baked in the oven until the bechamel sauce layer browns. It’s best to let it cool a bit before cutting in to squares and serving, because if you slice it hot the squares tend to fall apart instead of holding their shape. This doesn’t happen when you reheat it afterwards.
Regional Moussaka Variations
Moussaka with potatoes and eggplant is my favorite but some moussaka recipes are made with other vegetables instead of the eggplant. You might find mushrooms, zucchini or potato slices in there.
Some recipes don’t have the sauce on top and there is even a vegan version in Greece using vegetables, breadcrumbs and tomato sauce. The ground meat is swapped for extra eggplant. Moussaka with potatoes and eggplant can be tweaked however you wish.
In Turkey, sauteed eggplant, tomatoes, onions, ground meat and green bell peppers are combined (not layered). It might also have potatoes, carrots and/or zucchini. Potatoes are more popular than eggplant in the Balkans, and the meat might be beef or pork. A milk or yogurt mixture goes on top.
More Ways to Make It
Potatoes, eggplant or cabbage might be used in the Romanian version of moussaka. Breadcrumbs might be used on top. In Egypt the dish is made with layers of eggplant in tomato sauce and ground beef. Although this can be served hot or warm, it’s usually chilled for a day or two to enhance the flavor before serving. So if you’re ready to make this moussaka with potatoes and eggplant recipe, let’s take a look at how it’s down.
- ¼ cup (60ml) olive oil
- 2 lbs (900g) ground beef or lamb
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 2 finely chopped yellow onions
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¾ cup (150g) chopped Kalamata olives (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 15 oz (425g) seasoned tomato sauce
- ¼ cup (60g) butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (plain flour)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (500ml) hot milk
- 2 lightly beaten eggs
- ½ cup (55g) shredded Kefalograviera or parmesan cheese
- 2 lbs (900g) eggplants (aubergines) in ½ inch (1¼ cm) thick slices
- 2 or 3 potatoes in ¼ inch (6mm) thick rounds or long slices (enough to cover the bottom of your baking pan)
- Olive oil, as needed
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup (110g) parmesan cheese
- 1 cup (110g) kasseri cheese or white cheddar cheese
- 1 cup (90g) seasoned breadcrumbs
- First you need to saute the meat in ¼ cup (60ml) oil with the garlic and onion until lightly browned.
- Drain the meat and discard the fat (this is optional but recommended).
- Stir in the basil, cinnamon, oregano, olives (if using), salt and tomato sauce.
- Cover and gently simmer for 30 minutes, then uncover and gently simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile you can prepare the béchamel.
- Melt the butter in a pan over a low-medium heat, then whisk in the flour and cook for 2 or 3 minutes or until lightly cooked.
- Stir in the salt and take the pan off the heat, then whisk in the milk quickly and cook until bubbly and thick, whisking all the time.
- Let it cool for 5 minutes, whisking once to stop a skin forming on top, incorporating the eggs and cheese with a wire whisk.
- The finished béchamel sauce should be light and fluffy.
- Arrange the eggplant slices on a cookie sheet and brush the rest of the oil over it, then broil (UK: grill) until light brown.
- Salt the eggplant lightly, then flip and repeat the broiling.
- Put a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
- Arrange the potato slices in a 13 x 9 x 2 inch (33 x 23 x 5 cm) baking pan in a single layer, brush with oil and bake for 15 minutes.
- Grind some salt and black pepper over them.
- Arrange a layer of eggplant on top, then sprinkle over some parmesan, kasseri (or cheddar) and breadcrumbs.
- Layer the meat sauce, shredded cheese, breadcrumbs and béchamel sauce until everything is used.
- Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown on top.
- Let it sit for 15 minutes before serving.