Slipper Moussaka with Creamed Feta

The other night when I was feeling extremely lazy and not in the mood for cooking, I used a huge aubergine to make a gratinee-style version of this favourite recipe. As in the original, which I’m giving the recipe for here, I used ragu from the freezer (actually pork, I think) and folded crushed feta and a few egg yolks into a home made béchamel sauce. In my photo, you can just make out the aubergine. The idea is to roast aubergine halves that have been cut with a lattice, oiled and cooked until soft and sagging then piled with mince. The thick white sauce is then poured over the top and semi-sets just like the real thing. It’s entirely make ahead with in-built portion control, perfect with Greek salad. There is a quite wonderful but very time-consuming recipe for Harry’s Thanos Moussaka in The Trifle Bowl and Other Tales. Sadly Harry is no longer with us but he taught me how to make his moussaka, one of many dishes my friend Tessa and I came to know and love over many years on holiday on Lemnos. Harry passed on all manner of tips that makes his moussaka so incredibly good; you’ll just have to buy my book to learn what they are.

Serves 8-12
Prep: 60 min
Cook: 90 min

6 medium aubergines, approx 400g each
8 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, approx 100g each
6 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 x 500g minced lamb
2 large glasses red wine, approx 400ml
6 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2 x 470g jar Dolmio white sauce for lasagne or 2 x 350g Sacla vegan white sauce
4 egg yolks
300g feta cheese

for the salad:
4 Cos lettuce hearts
1 large cucumber
2 medium red onions
12 ripe tomatoes or 200g cherry tomatoes
20 pitted black olives
small bunch coriander
a few green pickled peppers in a jar (optional)
200g feta cheese
1 tsp dried oregano
juice 1 lemon
6 tbsp olive oil

Heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Halve the aubergines lengthways cutting through the stalk. Cut a 2cm lattice in the flesh, slicing almost to the base without piercing the skin. Run the knife round the inside edge of each half. Smear the cut surface with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on baking sheets and cook in the oven for 25-35 minutes until the flesh is completely soft and lightly browned. Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion and garlic. Cook together, stirring occasionally, in the remaining olive oil in a large, wide-based pan until soft and lightly coloured.  Stir in the cinnamon and then the tomato puree, cooking for a minute or so until the tomato looses its bright red colour. Add the lamb, breaking it up and stirring it into the onions with a wooden spoon.  Cook for a few minutes until browned and then season with salt, pepper and the oregano before adding the red wine. Let the wine boil up and then simmer over a low heat for at least 35 minutes. When the meat is cooked and the wine absorbed, stir in the chopped parsley and tip the mixture into a sieve to drain. Spoon the meat onto the aubergine ‘slippers’, pushing it down lightly between the sagging lattice.  Leave to cool. Finally, empty the white sauce into a bowl. Beat in the egg yolks. Crumble the feta into the sauce and stir. Spoon the sauce over the meat. Cook the slippers in the hot oven for 10-15 minutes or until the top is blistered and golden.  Leftover slippers re-heat perfectly. To make the salad, cut across the lettuce in 3cm wide strips, rinse and shake dry. Split the cucumber lengthways, scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon and slice chunkily into half moons. Peel and halve the onion and slice wafer thin. Quarter the tomatoes; halve cherry tomatoes. Chop the coriander. Place everything, including chillies if using, in a salad bowl. Slice big wedges of feta over the top and sprinkle them with dried oregano. When ready to serve, whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil and pour over the salad. Toss or not.