Sunday, November 6, 2016
My 63rd birthday making Moussaka
The idea of celebrating my 63rd birthday, alone and far from family, was hardly appealing. My friend Prof Evangelos Afendras decided otherwise.
Now, Evangelos definitely needs a proper introduction. He can be cast as Zeus in any Greek mythological movie, with all the necessary qualifications- white beard, girth and presence, and all of 73 years. He comes every year to teach at IIM Kashipur. He had gone to Johns Hopkins to study Electrical Engineering but ended up with a PhD in Linguistics and Humanities. He is globe-trotter and has taught all around the world, has a family across five countries.
Coming back to the moussaka, start by taking 500 grams of goat meat (original recipe has lamb), mince it fine. Fry the motor of the poor mixie in the process!
Take a kilo of big aubergines (lowly baigan), cut them in to thin slices about 10mm thick; make slits across them but do not cut across the skin. Add salt to the baigan slices and let them stand for at least half an hour so that they shed some water. Put them in a large baking dish, smear them with vegetable oil and microwave them on full power for 6 minutes, turn them over and microwave again for 6 minutes. They should be cooked. Remove from baking dish and keep them on a plate.
Sauté about a kilogram of chopped onions, with salt, pepper and a dash of chopped green chillies (innovation mine alone) in vegetable oil (it should be olive oil, but that is unavailable and bloody costly) till they are brown. Then add the minced mutton and keep frying till it tastes semi-cooked or al dente. Add about half a kilo of tomatoes, quartered and fry till the water dries, tomatoes get mixed and the mutton mixture is cooked.
In parallel, start making the bechamel sauce. Start by warming half litre of milk, preferably full cream. Start frying whole meal wheat flour (atta) in two spoonfuls of butter till the atta starts to turn light brown. Add the milk slowly to the fried atta and ensuring that there are no lumps. Add one egg slowly to the mixture while mixing. This should be a rather thickish sauce.
Line the bottom of the baking dish with the bottom ends of the fried/microwaved baigan, skin part downwards. Put in a layer of the mince mixture, add another layer of the fried baigan, one layer of mince. Cover with the bechamel sauce covering the entire surface, just like what you do for a pie.
Microwave in combo mode for 8 minutes. Stop, check for the crust. Repeat in combo mode for 8 minutes, and the crust should be golden brown and voila your moussaka is ready!
Now open a bottle of ouzo. The one we had was labelled Ouzo from Plimario, the island of Lesbos ( yes that's the etymological root for lesbian), courtesy Evangelos. Throw in 10 cubes of ice, pour in about 60ml of ouzo, swirl it around till the liquid turn milky, clink your glasses and take a gulp. Fire and ice, with a smell of aniseed rising- the world seems a much better place. Thus fortified by a few more sips, take adequate slices of brown bread, slather with butter, sprinkle finely chopped garlic and put it in the microwave in grill mode for 3 minutes max. Leave the bread in the oven for some time and they turn exquisitely crisp. By then you should be onto your second helping of ouzo.
Start your meal with the third helping of ouzo and bon apetit!