I think the first time I tasted this was when I traveled to Istanbul in the early 1970s, as a short break from setting up the New Internationalist magazine. I’d never really encountered this type of Middle Eastern food before. It was in some small eatery, and the experience was made all the more fascinating by the cook’s insistence that we come into the kitchen to sample all the dishes first. What a good idea! The Turks spell the dish musakka: the word derives from the Arabic for ‘chilled’.
S E R V E S 4 - 6
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 60 minutes
2 onions, chopped
2 cups / 200 g mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp tomato paste/purée
1 can tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp or 1 stick cinnamon
6 potatoes, parboiled and cut
into ¼-inch/1-cm slices and parboiled
2 eggplants/aubergines, cut into very thin slices
2 tbsp butter or margarine
3 tbsp flour
2 cups / 480 ml milk
1 cup / 100 g grated cheese
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
Heat oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas 4
1 Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onions. Add the mushrooms and tomato paste/purée and cook for 5 minutes.
2 Now put in the tomatoes, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes over a gentle heat. Add a little water if the mix is very dry.
3 After this, place a layer of potato slices over the base of a rectangular baking dish. Then cover with a layer of eggplant/ aubergine, and top that with the mushroom and tomato mix. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up.
4 Next, make the white sauce by melting the margarine or butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Slowly shake in the flour, stirring constantly to make a smooth mixture. Then gradually pour in the milk, again stirring. all the time so that the sauce is smooth. Cook for 3 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
5 Spoon the sauce on top of the moussaka. Then cover the dish and bake for approx. 30 minutes until cooked.
6 Remove the lid and sprinkle the cheese over. Brown for 5-10 minutes and then scatter the parsley on top before serving.