Good Day Foodies!
I opted to swap out the usual eggplant, zucchini and potatoes found in Moussaka for sweet potatoes because of their texture, flavour and vitamins. And it tasted incredible. Makes 6-8 portions.
- 4 to 6 sweet potatoes peeled and sliced lengthwise about as thick as your pinky
- About 1 kilo or 21/4 lbs. of lean ground beef
- 4 cloves of garlic chopped
- 156 ml of tomato paste
- 796 ml of whole plum tomatoes
- 1 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
- Bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup of butter
- 3/4 cup of flour
- 750 ml. of whole or 2% milk
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
Moussaka is prepared in layers and each layer is cooked separately but baked altogether in the end.
To begin, place the slices of sweet potato and lay them flat on a baking sheet. If you run out of room it's okay to stack them in a pyramid fashion. Then drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and bake for 30 minutes at 400'F.
For the meat sauce, you can make it in advance if you like or if you're well prepared you can have it ready by the time the sweet potatoes are done. Also, if you have any leftover meat sauce from the spaghetti you made the night before, moussaka is the perfect dish to use it with. There are no rules. Just add cinnamon and nutmeg and voila!
Fire the burner on high and in a large pot add a couple of swigs of olive oil. Add the onions and cook till aromatic and light brown and then add the garlic. As soon as the garlic begins to brown add the ground beef and stir it to incorporate the onions and garlic. Then add about 2 tbsp of cinnamon and 1 tbsp of nutmeg followed by 2-3 tbsp of salt or enough to taste and a pinch of pepper. Once the is beef cooked, ( no signs of pink) add the tomato paste and the plum tomatoes with the juice. Stir well and simmer on low. After five or ten minutes, give it a taste and add final seasoning - salt or pepper or nutmeg or cinnamon etc. Finally, strain the meat sauce to discard the rendered fat and let the meat rest.
In a casserole dish or deep baking pan ( I used a 12x8x3 ceramic dish for this recipe) layer the sweet potatoes and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. If you have enough sweet potato for another layer or even a partial one then repeat the process. Then add the meat sauce on top of the sweet potatoes and sprinkle bread crumbs and parmesan cheese as well.
Next, for the bechamel (white sauce) have a medium sized pot, butter, salt, flour, milk, parmesan cheese and a whisk or a wooden spoon at the ready and set the oven to bake at 425'F(for later). Be prepared for every step and don't leave the sauce alone until it's done. It can easily be fouled up if you're distracted with other things. So, set the burner on high and place the butter and a pinch of salt in the pot. As soon as it melts, add the flour and mix until it becomes a roux (thickening agent). It should look like clumps of wet fine sand. Immediately add a quarter of the milk and stir, stir, stir until the roux and milk become one. Then add another quarter of the milk and stir. Repeat two more times until the sauce is as thick as gravy. Finally, fold in a pinch of nutmeg and a cup of parmesan cheese.
With a rubber spatula, pour the bechamel sauce over the meat and use the spatula to cover every corner.
Sprinkle with cinnamon ever so lightly and put in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until it's golden brown. Let it rest for 15-20 minutes before eating.
I hope you like it and if you're trying this recipe and come across any obstacles, send me a note and I'll help you along the way.