Lamb Moussaka
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  • Portion/Yield:

    Serves 6 as a main course
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Cooking is my life but it does not necessarily mean that I have to reinvent the wheel every time I get the pots and pans out. As part of my daily routine at work I’m challenged most days to cook classics well rather than create new ground breaking recipes, concepts and ideas. However I may apply a twist and update the techniques and enhance the flavour profiles.

I discovered that moussaka was first made in North Africa and used to be heavily scented with rich spices such as cumin, nutmeg and cinnamon and no it did not contain potatoes nor the well known yoghurt sauce. It soon spread to Greece and the Greeks took this dish on as one of their national dishes but added their own stamp on this age old recipe. The Greeks added potatoes, toned down the fragrant spices and they also added the yoghurt egg sauce, this became the established way of making moussaka. The outcome is that no one was right or wrong about the potato debate.

What it did highlight to me was that food is incredibly subjective and that we all like to add our own mark on something we enjoy making.

For the moussaka I confit the shoulder of lamb in duck fat for 3 hours and then added the cooked flaked meat to a rich tomato sauce. I added a lamb cutlet and a mild harissa sauce to reconnect this dish with it’s original North African roots.

All in all I think that this dish and my take on this kitchen classic works pretty of Lamb Moussakaphoto of Lamb Moussakaphoto of Lamb Moussakaphoto of photo of Lamb Moussaka

Ingredients & Method

Individual Lamb Moussakas

  • 1kg shoulder of lamb, boneless
  • Duck fat to cover the shoulder of lamb
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large sprigs of thyme and rosemary
  • 3 large banana shallots, peeled
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 800g of chopped tomatoes (2 small tins)
  • 1tbs tomato puree
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 50ml sherry vinegar
  • 200ml red wine
  • 2tbs chopped mixed soft herbs such as chervil, chives, tarragon and parsley
  • 1 aubergines, you need 12 1/2 cm slices if the aubergine is small then you will need a second
  • 160ml natural yoghurt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • freshly grated nutmeg

Harissa Sauce

  • 25ml sunflower oil
  • 1 large red chilli, remove the green stalk
  • 1 banana shallot, peeled
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • Pinch of Garam Masala
  • Pinch of cumin seeds
  • 6 coriander seeds
  • 1tbs sherry vinegar
  • 1tsp tomato puree
  • 1tsp tomato puree
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 150ml vegetable or chicken stock

For the racks of lamb

  • 2 x 6 bone racks of lamb, french trimmed ( serve twp cutlets per portion - the photo suggest one but that is a bit mean)
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

First cook the shoulder of lamb. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Select a deep casserole dish that will allow the shoulder of lamb to be covered with duck fat.

Rub salt and pepper generously over the boneless shoulder of lamb. Place the lamb in the casserole dish, add 1 bay leaf and the 2 large sprigs of thyme and rosemary. Melt the duck fat and cover the lamb shoulder with the duck fat, place a piece of parchment paper on the surface of the fat and bring  to a gentle simmer over a low heat. Place a lid on top to cover the dish and transfer the dish to the preheated oven. Cook the lamb shoulder for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, insert a sharp knife, if the knife comes out easily the lamb is tender enough and cooked, if it struggles slightly return the lamb to the oven and continue cooking until tender.

Carefully remove the lamb from the oven and leave it to cool for about 30 minutes. Drain the fat and place the lamb on a cooling rack for any remaining fat to drip off, leave it for about 30 minutes. Whilst the lamb is still warm but not too hot, flake the meat and remove as much fat as possible. Set the flaked meat aside until the tomato sauce is ready.

Make the tomato sauce whilst the lamb is cooking in the oven: Finely dice the shallots and crush the garlic. Heat a medium saucepan with the oil and saute the shallots, garlic, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and seasoning until golden. Add the tomato puree, sugar and sherry vinegar and cook for 2 minutes until the shallots become sticky, add the red wine and cook until the wine become sticky and coating the shallots. Add the chopped tomatoes and more seasoning, bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and cook for about 30 minutes over low heat until the tomato sauce become thick and rich. Once the sauce is ready add the flaked cooked lamb shoulder to the tomato sauce and mix well. Add the 2tbs of chopped mixed soft herbs to the meat and tomato mixture and leave to cool.

Griddle the aubergines: Heat a griddle pan on the cooker until very hot. Slice the aubergines into 1/2 cm thick slices, lay them on a baking tray, season on both sides and brush them with olive oil. Griddle the aubergines until they have dark bar marks on both sides. Set aside until needed.

Yoghurt Sauce: In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks and yoghurt together and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg.

Assemble the Moussaka: Assemble the moussakas up to one day in advance and keep refrigerated until needed.

Use 6 5cm wide x 3.5cm high metal rings. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place the rings onto the tray.

Spoon in the meat and tomato mixture , place a slice of aubergine on top and a teaspoonful of the yoghurt mixture, this should half fill the ring, add another layer of meat and aubergine and finish the moussaka with the yoghurt sauce. TIP: if the aubergine slice is too wide then cut a wedge out like you would cut a wedge of cake, pull the sides together to shape a circle that would fit inside your ring a perfect band of purple aubergine skin on the outside.

Repeat the process until all the rings are filled. Keep the moussakas refrigerated until needed.

For the harrisa sauce, chop the banana shallot and the chilli and crush the garlic. Heat a small saucepan with the oil and saute the chopped chilli, shallots, garlic, garam masala, cumin seeds, coriander seeds until the shallots start to turn transparent and take on colour. Add the sugar, tomato puree, sherry vinegar and seasoning, cook for 1 minute stirring continuously. Add the stock and bring the sauce to a gentle simmer for 12 minutes. Pulse the sauce with a stick blender to bring it all together, do not blend the sauce too much as the colour will become light orange and rather unpleasant looking. Set aside until needed. Make the sauce one day in advance and keep refrigerated until needed.

To cook the lamb, Preheat the oven to 200°C. Heat a large frying pan over high heat, season the racks of lamb and colour the fat in the pan for 6 minutes, place the lamb in the oven at the same time than the moussakas. Cook the lamb for 15 -18 minutes and cook the moussaka for 25 minutes. Let the lamb rack rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Serve the harrisa sauce warmed onto the plates, remove the rings from the moussaka and serve on the plate, place two lamb cutlets on each plate and serve with semi-dried tomatoes and watercress.