Today I want to talk about one of the unsung heroes of British Cookery, Tamasin Day-Lewis. She's not considered to be sexy like Nigella Lawson, but in my opinion, she can cook her way around Nigella any day of the week, no question about it. She reminds me of a hippy/mother earth/ naturalist type of person, with her long hair and her simple ways, and you might be very surprised to find out . . . I was . . . she's the sister of the actor Daniel Day-Lewis. The daughter of a poet and an actress, she attended Cambridge University and read English at Kings College and in my opinion, next to Nigel Slater, she is the best darned cook in the UK.
I have always enjoyed watching her television shows and her cookery books and, in fact, I always buy her recipe books because I know they will be filled with beautiful, usable, recipes for great food that tastes delicious! When I first watched her, her long hair used to put me off just a tad . . . I am not fond of chef's hair around food, but after a while, I was so impressed with the caliber of her cookery it didn't matter anymore.
This is one of my favorite of all of her cookbooks for several reasons. One, the recipes in it always work out beautifully and two, there are recipes literally for just about any British dish you might want to cook on it's pages. You might be surprised actually to hear my confession today . . . I am 57 years old and until today I have never eaten Moussaka. Tis absolutely true . . . I have planned on trying it through the years, but until today I just had never gotten around to doing that.
Having picked up some lovely looking lamb mince at the Butchers the other day and some beautiful aubergines at the green grocer (eggplant to you North Americans) I decided that today was going to be the day when I would finally make it. I did a search online for recipes to use, but couldn't find one that appealed to me. They all had potatoes in them, or other bits I didn't want to use. I wanted a good, solid, usable recipe, and then I remembered Tamasin. I just knew that in one of her many cookery books that I own, there would be at least one solid recipe for Moussaka and I was right.
There, nestled within the pages of Tamasin's Kitchen Bible was the perfect recipe. There was nothing complicated about it . . . it was quite simply a delicious sounding meat sauce, layered with roasted aubergine slices (no frying, bonus!) and slathered with a rich bechamel sauce, sprinkled with some Parmesan and then baked . . . the layers of meat and aubergine melding together in a beautiful marriage of flavours . . . the top covered in a crust of delicious bechamel . . . gilded and golden brown . . .
I cannot believe that I have gotten to this age without ever having tasted this delicious Greek dish!! I can tell you it won't be long however before I taste it again, because we both thoroughly enjoyed this fabulous casserole! It was positively delicious!
All the flavours worked beautifully together, and I have an idea that it is a dish in which the leftovers will taste even better than the firsts . . . it was economical and filling and just wonderful. A firm favourite the first time around. I think it would make a fabulous party dish as well . . . and I cannot imagine anyone not liking it, well . . . unless they are vegetarians . . .
I do hope you will give it a go. I did adapt the sauce slightly as I didn't have fresh tomatoes to hand and really, fresh tomatoes this time of year aren't that great, so I just used a tin of chopped plum tomatoes and it worked perfectly. I do hope you will give it a go, and if you do you come back to tell me what you think!
Inexpensive and delicious. Great party dish. Serve with a green salad and some crusty bread for sopping up all of that goodness.
3 aubergines, sliced 1/2 inch thick (Eggplants)
2 medium brown onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 pounds minced lamb
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 400g tin of chopped plum tomatoes in tomato juice, undrained
(14 ounce tin)
3 TBS tomato puree (tomato paste)
60ml of white wine (1/4 cup)
2 TBS parsley
finely grated Parmesan cheese
for the Bechamel:
600 ml of full fat milk
(1 pint, or 2 1/3 cups)
1 medium brown onion, peeled and studded with a couple of cloves
1 bay leaf, broken
2 TBS unsalted butter
2 TBS plain flour
a touch of nutmeg
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 180*C.350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a deep baking dish and set aside.
Brush the aubergine slices on both sides with some olive oil. Lay them out onto a large baking sheet in a single layer, or two if necessary. Bang the trays into the oven and roast them for 10 to 15 minutes, until they are soft all the way through when pricked with the tines of a fork. Don't let them brown too much. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook, without browning, until soft and a pale gold. Add the garlic and cook for several minutes before crumbli9ng in the mince. Fry the mince, scrambling and stirring until it is no longer pink and well browned. Add the cinnamon and season to taste with sale and black pepper. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato puree and parsley. Stir well, add the white wine, bring to the boil and then allow to simmer at a quick simmer, until most of the liquid had evaporated (but not all) and the meat is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
While the meat sauce is simmering, make your Bechamel. Place the milk, onion and bay leaf into a microwaveable beaker. Heat on high for about 1 1/2 minutes or until scalded. Set aside to infuse for about 10 minutes. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Once it begins to foam, whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon for about a minute. Strain in the infused milk and cook, stirring constantly until any lumps are stirred out and the mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Allow to simmer on a very low heat for about 10 minutes and stirring occasionally. (Keep watch on it so it doesn't catch. I use a diffuser plate under my saucepan.) Halfway through the simmering time season to taste with some salt and pepper and just a touch of nutmeg. You want the nutmeg to be subtle, not slap you in the face. You should just know that there is another flavour there without being able to recognize it.
Layer the roasted aubergine and meat sauce in a deep casserole dish, beginning and ending with the aubergine. Pour a thick layer of the bechamel over top. (You may not need it all.) Dust the top with finely grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until it has nicely browned on top and the meat and aubergine layers have married beautifully together. Spoon out hot from the dish to serve.
Note: Recipe adapted from a recipe by Tamasin Day Lewis