Fly to Eastern Europe and taste a delicious and nutritious meat and potato pie with vegetables and yoghurty crust. A comfort meal for a Sunday supper, oven-cooked moussaka is a delight for your taste buds. An interesting alternative to the London and Britain's favourite meat pies. Let's dig a bit into the origins of the dish.
One can argue about the origins of this meal, but that's how it goes with 90 % of the Balkan cuisine. All the nations there seem to have close ties with each other in terms of culture, therefore, food creations vary slightly between the different cuisines. Moussaka is a similar case, as Greeks make it with creamier and fattier yoghurt, Turkish use aubergines mainly, whereas Bulgarians' yoghurt is less heavy and potatoes comprise the main part of the meal.
The minced meat is the second most important ingredient. I prefer to buy it at the local butcher shop – then and only then I can be sure of its high quality. I always ask for the butcher to mince some perfectly looking pork and beef chops together. Beef or lamb is also a possible combination. In fact, that's what makes this recipe one of a kind – you can mix and match different vegetables and kinds of meat, according to your own taste and preferences. The end result will always be a creamy and juicy flavourful pie, cooked in a nice and clean oven.
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Step 1: The Meat Sauce
This ingredient doesn't take the biggest space in the pie – that honour goes to potatoes. But it is the one that turns the tables. There are multiple ways to make a meat sauce. An accepted standard is to brown the meat – to the point it sticks on the pan's bottom. Then washing it away with water and wine will make the added flavours from the browned meat. What's the problem with that technique? Albeit it makes the meat nicely crunchy, it does seem to involve high amounts of fat. The ones inside the meat do not vaporise, and you will need additional ones, in case you don't want to lose your pan after the first cooking.
Therefore, I decided to go healthier and leave out frying. Instead, I swamped in the deep waters of water baths. Cooking in such a way will still give you a great taste of the food, but it will also allow for no oils whatsoever in the meal. How about that for a table turning event, right? You will need around 5 to 10 minutes on the water bath.
Depending on your oven's capacity, these minutes will vary. One of the most important things that I've learned in cooking – know your appliances. I never abide by the exact times given in the recipes. That depends on multiple other factors, as the age of your cooker, how much time you usually spend in cleaning the oven, even the weather conditions.
Step 2: What Ingredients Do We Need
- 750 gr (26 ounces)
- minced meat – mix with beef and lamb will do good whereas a mixture of beef and pork will make it a touch creamier and you won't need a lot of additional oils
- 1.2 kg potatoes, peeled and cubed. Use fresh ones and you don't have to boil them in advance.
- Salt & Pepper
- two onions, finely diced
For the sauce:
- 2 eggs (whole)
- 1 yoghurt – make sure you find one that has a higher fat consistency if you use beef or lamb, and one with less fat percentage if you stick with pork mince
- 100 gr flour
Step 3: Preparation Time:
Note to myself – I am a perfectionist, with is both a curse and a blessing. When I cook family dinners, such as moussaka meat pie, I always spend a handful of hours the previous day in scrubbing my oven perfectly until there's no food leftovers and oily stains left. Why do I do that? I don't want to risk any flavour discrepancies or microbes, lurking in those charred deposits there intervene with my cooking skills. Just as professional oven cleaning London technicians in my area advice – though I am much pickier than them and clean more often than the recommended 3 or 4 times for a good deep scrubbing per year.
Time to bathe the meat. For the purpose, I use a steam cooker. It's really easy to operate with and the good thing is – you don't need any oil. The food turns out delicious. Pour water in the water holder, separate the meat into small chunks, and turn on the timer. You need around 20 minutes to get a good texture. You don't need to cook it completely, as you will tuck it in the oven later. You don't want to dry the meat too much.
Peel and cut the potatoes and cover the bottom of an oven baking dish. Dice the onions and the carrots as well, and put them on top. Now comes the layer of minced bathed meat chunks. There's still some fat left in the meat since you didn't cook it completely – therefore, you don't need any extra oils. Flavour everything with salt & pepper (I used Himalayan one, as I am a particularly big fan of it). Pour 200 ml of water. Tuck it in your cleaned oven at 200C for about half an hour, before adding the final ingredient.
Step 4: The Yoghurt Crust
Meanwhile, you can start preparing the sauce that will bind the pie together. Stir the eggs, add the flour and the yoghurt. Mix everything until homogeneous. After the initial 30 minutes pass, take out the pie from the oven and pour the sauce on top. Bake for 30 minutes more. Leave aside to rest for around 30 minutes. Serve with a fresh summer salad and a spoonful of yoghurt poured on top of the portion.
Voila! You've got yourself a slightly different but healthier version of the popular oven-baked pie with minced meat and vegetables. Enjoy it as a delicious Sunday supper or as a comfort food after a rough day!