Susan Hoffman writes in her The Olive and the Caper: Adventures in Greek Cooking that moussaka
"comes in two versions: with an inner tier of saucy and succulent meat between layers of vegetable, and purely vegetarian. The two versions, of course, have many small variations, almost as many as there are Greek cooks. More white sauce or less. An eggplant with no potato, or a layer of potato as the foundation. A long-simmered meat center or a quick dash of meat and spices. (p. 313)"
Thus every Greek cook has their special moussaka recipe. Hoffman says that for the topping, 'redolent nutmeg cannot be bettered as the spice to accent curdy kefalotyri cheese'. Theodore Kyriakou uses cinnamon and kefalotyri in his version. Whereas Hoffman suggests either lamb or beef, Kyriakou prescribes lamb alone. Where Kyriakou layers both aubergines and courgettes (or eggplans and zucchinis:), Hoffman prefers the former alone. This is 'my' version - and remains so, until I feel confident enough to tackle the 'proper' version.
This was the very well-received welcoming dish on Friday night. It is from BBC Good Food April 2004 issue, where it is called Hob-to-table moussaka. So don't think of the heavy, but flavoursome, oven pie dish* that is served in many a Greek restaurant. It's not the traditional layered affair at all, but cooked in the frying pan on the hob. Think of it more like deconstructing the Greek national dish, and serving it in a much lighter and simpler way. That is, omit the Saltsa Besamel and kefalotyri cheese, which have been replaced with feta cheese. May not necessarily be lighter, but it is definitely simpler.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, minced
2 minced garlic cloves
500 grams minced lamb
400 grams chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp concentrated tomato pure**
2 tsp cinnamon
200-300 grams of roasted eggplant/aubergine slices in olive oil, roughly chopped
200 grams feta cheese
Heat the olive oil on a big saucepan (feel free to use the oil drained from the eggpants). Add onion and garlic and fry gently, until soft.
Add the mince and fry until the meat is browned.
Add chopped tomatoes and tomato pure, season with cinnamon and generously with salt and pepper.
Simmer on a low heat for about 20 minutes***, adding aubergines half way through.
To serve, sprinkle with feta and mint (I used basil mint from my window sill).
Serve with fresh salad and toasted pita or plain naan bread.
Simple, delicious, aromatic, and very very Greek:)
* Susan Hoffman writes that 'The word moussaka refers to any layered vegetable casserole - only with tourism has the term become synonymous with the meat and eggplant version' (p. 316).
** Or replace chopped tomatoes and tomato pure with tomato perasti, if available (it's kind of thick and intensely-flavoured Greek tomato passata).
*** I cook the sauce for 30-40 minutes, stirring regularly and adding a bit of red wine/stock if necessary. I like the extra depth that slow cooking gives to tomato-based sauces.