MOUSAKA WITH GLUTEN FREE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE (Vegan Options)

My husband and I have this ongoing ‘thing’ that we try mousaka at every restaurant we go to. This has gone on for at least the last 10 years. Obviously my husband judges the béchamel sauce (as it is usually made with wheat based flour). Surprisingly, we have agreed that there has only been about 3 restaurants that have made a mousaka the way that we make it at home. I know that sounds a little ‘stuck-up’ but we seriously think we make a pretty damn good mousaka AND it’s gluten free. 

In fact, one of my brothers is a chef by trade and he once said to me when he tried my mousaka, “So where did you buy this from?” and I looked at him puzzled. Did that mean it wasn’t home-style quality or that it was delicious? “It’s too good for you to have made it” he continued to say. Yeah I know! 

So this is the recipe. The important thing about my mousaka is that I don’t cut the vegetable pieces thick. There is nothing worst than a chunky slice of potato in a mousaka. Take the time and cut (or use a mandolin) the vegetables thin and multi layer them. It makes a world of difference to the texture. I also love to add a really thick layer of béchamel sauce. Who doesn’t love béchamel sauce? I always feel ripped off when it’s a thin layer. So there are my two secrets to making an awesome MOUSAKA! They make a world of difference to the taste and texture. Give it a go. The effort is well worth it. 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Serves 8

Bechamel Sauce

3 tbs butter or non dairy substitute

5 tbs self raising flour

6 cups milk or non dairy substitute

3 tbs parmesan cheese or vegan cheese

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Sprinkle of polenta or breadcrumbs

Mince Sauce

700g beef mince or vegan mince substitute 

1 large onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbs olive oil

1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

2 tbs tomato paste

400g can organic diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Sea salt and pepper

Vegetable Layers

700g eggplant, sliced 1/2 cm thick

500g zucchini, sliced 1/2 cm thick

500g potatoes, sliced 1/2 cm thick

Sea salt and pepper

Olive oil Spray

  1. Preheat oven 200C fan forced.

  2. Cut the vegetables and lay each piece (slightly overlapping) on trays lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and spray with olive oil. Bake each tray in a preheated oven for 10 minutes and then turn over and bake for a further 7 minutes. Alternatively spray with olive oil, season and grill or BBQ until just cooked (this is a much healthier alternative to the traditional frying method). Set aside.

  3. Heat the oil in a wide, deep pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes stirring occasionally. Increase the heat to high and add the mince. Using a wooden spoon break down the mince whilst it is cooking until it starts to breakdown and brown. Keep the heat high until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, seasoning and spice along with the parsley and 1/4 cup of water. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Check and stir occasionally. Turn off heat and allow to slightly cool. 

  4. Grease an oven proof large dish with some olive oil. Lay the potatoes on the bottom then add the eggplant and finally lay the zucchini. Overlap each vegetable slightly so there are no gaps. Spread the mince sauce mixture on top of the vegetable layers. Set dish aside and make béchamel sauce.

  5. Warm the milk in a saucepan and set aside. In a deep saucepan add the butter and melt and then add the flour. On a low heat stir vigorously and using a wooden spoon break down into crumbs. Take the saucepan of milk and gradually add to the flour mixture and whisk to make sure no lumps are formed. Once all milk has been poured in, continue whisking for a minute or until sauce starts to thicken. Take off heat and add seasoning. If there are still lumps you can use a hand held electric blender to smooth mixture. Finally add the parmesan cheese and mix with a wooden spoon. 

  6. Cover the meat sauce in the dish with the béchamel sauce and spread out evenly. Sprinkle the  béchamel sauce with choice of topping (polenta or/ and breadcrumbs). 

  7. Bake in the oven at 180C fan forced for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it stand for 15 minutes before serving. 

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