The Islands of Greece
Steven Joyce

This dish can be a controversial subject among Greek cooks, as everyone thinks they know the best way of making it (or if they don’t then their mother does), so I was careful to ask lots of chefs and cooks as I tried to work out my favourite version. (I learned a lot from a wonderful lady in a shoe shop one afternoon, after my sandals broke.) I like a fairly deep layer of béchamel on the top of my moussaka and I prefer to make it with minced beef, or beef and veal. However, it can be very good made with lamb, in which case a little pinch of cinnamon can really elevate the flavour. If you are a cheese lover, you might like to grate a little cheese on top, just before serving.



Quantity Ingredient
60g butter
60g plain flour
800ml hot milk
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
20g grated pecorino or parmesan, or the greek hard sheeps’ milk cheese, kefalotyri
1 egg, beaten


Quantity Ingredient
2 large aubergines
400g waxy potatoes
splash olive oil, plus more for the aubergines, the meat and the dish
500g minced lamb, beef, or veal
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon tomato puree
160ml red wine
200g passata or blitzed
canned tomatoes
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried greek oregano


  1. Make the béchamel: melt the butter over a low heat and add the flour. Mix and cook very gently for 2–3 minutes. Gradually add the hot milk, little by little (too much at a time and the sauce will become lumpy). Continue to cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, on the lowest possible heat, until the sauce becomes glossy. Season with salt, pepper and a generous grating of nutmeg, then stir in the grated cheese. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then slowly pour in the egg, whisking vigorously as you do so (make sure the béchamel really is cool enough first, otherwise the egg will scramble). Cover and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200ºC then prepare the filling. Slice the aubergines into rounds about 5 mm thick, then place them in a colander. Scatter with a pinch of salt, toss gently and leave to drain over the sink for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile peel the potatoes and slice into rounds of the same size as the aubergine. Heat the oil in a wide pan and gently fry the potatoes until just beginning to colour, then set aside.
  4. Brush a baking tray with olive oil. Pat the aubergine slices dry with paper towels and place them on the baking sheet. Brush the slices with olive oil and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Turn over and return to the oven for 5–10 minutes, or until just beginning to brown. Set aside.
  5. In a clean pan, brown the minced meat really thoroughly over a high heat with a splash of oil, stirring until all the grains are separate. (You may need to do this in batches, as if the pan is crowded the meat will stew rather than brown.) Remove the meat and set aside, then add the onion to the pan and cook gently to soften (add a little more oil if necessary), for 10 minutes or so, stirring to prevent it from sticking. Add the garlic and tomato purée and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Return the minced meat to the pan and add the wine. Let bubble, using a wooden spoon to scrape any bits from the pan. After a couple of minutes, add the tomatoes and herbs, then pour in 200 ml of water. Simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season.
  6. To assemble the moussaka, oil a large, high-sided ovenproof dish, and line the base with the potatoes. Pour over the meat sauce, then cover with the aubergine slices. Pour the béchamel evenly over the aubergine. Bake in the oven for 55 minutes, until deep golden brown on top.
  7. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving. Don’t serve moussaka piping hot, as it may fall apart.
The Islands of Greece
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