We had the Missionary Sisters over for tea last night. I love feeding the missionaries and I like to feed them something they aren't going to get anywhere else. I figure they get enough bangers and mash and roast dinners. I usually prepare them something completely different and unexpected.
This week I decided to do them a Greek meal. I have never been to Greece, but it's a place I have wanted to go since I was a young girl and saw Haley Mills in the film The Moonspinners. Sigh . . . that whetted in me an appetite to travel to Greece that has never been fulfilled. Some day . . .
You can't go wrong with a tasty Moussaka (a la Tamasin Day Lewis), a lovely Greek Salad and some Greek Tear and Share Bread. It all went down a real treat. No plates were thrown or broken. ☺
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.
*The World's Best Greek Salad*
Serves 6 as a side salad, or 3 as a main
Delicious, refreshing and very, very tasty!! The onions are marinated several hours ahead in a portion of the dressing, so take note that you will need to start this a bit in advance.
6 TBS olive oil (Divided)
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 1/2 TBS fresh lemon juice
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp dried oregano (I like to use Bart's freeze dried)
For the Salad:
1 head of Romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into
bite sized pieces
1 punnet of baby plum tomatoes, quartered
(or 3 large plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped)
1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
1 small pepper, seeded and chopped (Green or yellow)
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Between two to four hours before you want to serve the salad place 2 TBS of the olive oil, the red wine vinegar, the lemon juice, garlic and the oregano in a zip lock baggie. Add the onions and shake to combine. Place into a bowl and allow to sit and marinate until you are ready to complete the salad. (This process takes away from the sharpness of the onion and adds an incredible depth of flavour to the dressing.)
When ready to serve, place all the salad ingredients into a large bowl, except for the cheese. Remove the onions from the marinade and place them in the bowl with the other salad ingredients. Pour the marinade into a measuring cup and then whisk in the remaining 4 TBS of oil. (If you find the mixture too tart, you may add a tsp of sugar here if desired) Pour the resulting dressing over the salad and toss all together. Sprinkle with the feta cheese and serve.
*Tear and Share Greek Bread*
Makes one loaf
Makes one loaf
Use a rolling pin to roll out the bread dough to a rectangle which is 11 inches by 16 inches in size. Mix together the olives, tomatoes, cheese, oregano and garlic. Scatter this mixture lengthwise over half of the dough, with the long side facing you. Drizzle with the olive oil. Fold the other half of the dough over top of the filling and seal the edges. Cut into 10 even strips cross wise with a sharp knife. Working with one piece at a time, roll up lengthways and place, cut side down, into a well greased 9 by 5 inch loaf tin. Push the ends in to fit and take care not to drop too much filling. Continue to pack the rolls in so that they fit snugly and scattering with any dropped pieces of filling as you go along. Press down on the surface with a damp hand to make it even. Cover with a damp towel and allow to raise in a warm draft free place for about an hour, or until the dough reaches the top edge of the tin.
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Bake the loaf for 50 minutes, or until golden all over and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
And for dessert . . . a lovely and light Lemon Mousse . . .
I love lemon anything and this is a tasty version of a lemon mousse, chock full of delicious lemon flavours and light as air!
the finely grated zest of 3 lemons
1/4 cup (60ml) fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup (185g) caster sugar
4 large eggs, separated
5 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Place the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and egg yolks in the top of a double boiler, over simmering water, and cook over a low heat. Stir constantly, cooking for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture coats the back of a metal spoon. Whisk in the butter, piece at a time. Remove from the heat and cool.
Whisk the egg whites in a clean and great free bowl, until stiff.
Fold half of the egg whites into the lemon mixture with a metal spoon, then fold in the remaining egg whites. Divide amongst 4 serving dishes and chill until firm. Serve with a small cake or crisp cookie on the side.
Served up with some sweet and buttery and light two bite Lemon Madeleines
Makes quite a lot
These are like tiny baby lemon sponges, each one a heavenly bite just for you!
5 large eggs
200g (7 ounces) caster sugar (generous cup)
finely grated zest of one lemon
200g (7 ounces) plain flour, sifted (about 1 1/3 cups)
1 tsp baking powder
185g (6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled ( 3/4 cup)
Icing sugar to dust
Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Whisk the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk until they are pale yellow in colour and fluffy. Stir in the lemon zest. Fold in the flour, baking powder and melted butter. Leave to rest for 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into well buttered madeleine trays and bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or a little bit longer until they test done. Repeat as necessary. Cool on wire rack and dust with icing sugar before serving.
Nobody was disappointed.