I’ve been meaning to do this dish for about 3 months now, and while the meat wasn’t on special, I was determined last Friday to get this one done and over with. And I’m so glad I did, the flavour of this dish really caught me off guard. It truly is something special, and unlike any other Greek dish I’ve tried thus far.
I really wanted to use lamb meat, but they didn’t have it ground and the cuts they had weren’t ideal for grinding, so whatever… beef is good too. Just not as good. (*ノ・ω・）
Wait a minute… WHERE ARE THE POTATOES?!!! Well, according to Wikipedia:
“The modern Greek version was probably formulated by chef Tselementes in the 1920s. It has three layers that are separately cooked before being combined for the final baking: a bottom layer of sliced eggplant sautéed in olive oil; a middle layer of ground lamb lightly cooked with chopped or puréed tomatoes, onion, garlic, and spices (cinnamon, allspice and black pepper); and a top layer of Béchamel sauce or savoury custard. The composed dish is then layered into a pan and baked until the top layer is browned.”
I don’t see any potatoes, and you know how important authenticity is to me… so this is the way we’re going to do it. If you don’t like it, just add another bottom layer of potatoes. This is my recipe though, not yours, so I’ll be doing it my way. (´･ω･`)
Ingredients (for 6 portions)
Bottom layer (Vegetables)
3 small eggplants (100g each)
1 red onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp thyme leaves
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
Middle layer (Meat)
500g ground meat (beef or lamb)
1 red onion
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 can of diced tomatoes (around 14oz)
-1 tsp cinnamon
-4 cloves (ground or whole)
-1 tsp salt
Top layer (Béchamel sauce)
5 tbsp butter
5 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
3 egg yolks
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 390F and brush the inside of your baking pan with olive oil. (12″ x 10″ is a good size)
2. Thinly slice eggplants around 1cm thick and julienne your red onion.
3. Add vegetable slices to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme leaves, then mix until they’re evenly coated.
4. Layer the vegetables in the baking pan until the bottom is fully covered.
5. Place baking pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or so.
6. While vegetable layer is baking, mince a red onion and throw it on a hot pan drizzled with olive oil and set to high-heat.
7. Mince your garlic, throw it in with the onions on the pan. Cook for a bit until onion browns, then add your spices (cinnamon, cloves, no salt yet) and cook for another little bit until your spices are infused into the onions.
8. Mix in your tomato paste until it’s even, then add your ground meat, continuing to cook on high heat until your meat is broken up and browned. (use a wooden spoon to break it up)
9. Pour in your jar of diced tomatoes and continue to cook and stir. At this point, you’ll want to season with salt and pepper, and taste and adjust until it tastes good.
10. Keep cooking on the pan until the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates, and yes, this will take awhile. Be patient.
11. Once mixture is dry, remove pan from heat and set aside for later. Are your eggplants done yet? If so, take it out of the oven, but you really should’ve taken it out sooner if the meat layer took you more than 20 minutes. (which was my case)
Now we start the béchamel sauce!!! Unfortunately I really suck at making this, so I might not be the best person to trust with instructions on how to make it, but here’s the technique I’ve come up with…
12. Melt butter in a saucepan on medium-low heat (start with medium then switch to low)
13. Once butter is melted, add your flour, then whisk it until it absorbed most of the butter.
14. Gradually add your milk, 1 small splash at a time, whisking in between splashes to make sure each splash gets absorbed by the flour before you add the next one. This will take awhile, but be patient.
15. Once all the milk is added, turn the heat back up to medium-low, whisk until their are no lumps left, and wait for your mixture to bubble. The mixture should be smooth and creamy, if not, you did it wrong, like me. :D
16. Add your seasoning (nutmeg, salt, pepper), then taste and adjust for salt.
17. Whisk in your egg yolks, then remove from heat.
18. Add about 1/4th of the sauce you just created into your ground meat mixture. This will make the meat layer sooooo creamy and delicious~!!! But make sure to leave some sauce to form the top layer!!! (=^･ω･^)y＝
19. Layer your ground meat mixture over the vegetables, then spread the remaining béchamel sauce over the ground meat, making sure it’s fully covered.
20. Place back into the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the top looks brown and slightly crispy.
21. Once it’s finished baking, let it cool for about 30 minutes before cutting, otherwise it’ll fall apart really easily.
22. Portion it out and serve topped with sour cream because sour cream makes everything taste better!!! (probably not a very Greek thing to do though… perhaps eat it with a side of Greek yogurt? (´･ω･`))
Normally when I make a roux, I whisk together the wet ingredients first (eggs, water/ milk) before adding the flour, however since béchamel sauce is made with butter, I figured my usual method probably wouldn’t have worked as well because I feel like the flour should soak up the butter before milk is added. Pouring milk straight onto the melted butter, or melting butter in with the milk just seems wrong to me… but it might work just as well, who knows.
Yeah I had no idea what béchamel sauce was back then.