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Artichoke Moussaka

artichoke moussaka

The greek moussaka is a true fusion dish, created by Tselementes, a  greek chef and cookbook writer of the begining of the 20th century. Tselementes  has been demonised in the last decades for not being a ‘purist’ and the rest. Although many of his recipes are too rich for todays tastes, with his moussaka he invented a quintessential dish that spawned more ‘purist’ discussions about ingredients, methods e.t.c.

In any case, during this time of year artichokes grow in our garden, and we use them instead of aubergines causing a small scandal in the family. The greek standard is with traditional béchamel, but we prefer the greek yogurt béchamel, according to the recipe of Aglaia Kremezi.

We think the combination tastes great .

artichokes

artichokes

The artichokes

  • lemon juice
  • 10 fresh artichokes (or 10 frozen artichoke hearts)

The potatoes

  • 3 medium potatoes (350g), cut into thin slices
  • olive oil, for brushing the eggplant and

The meat sauce

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 250g onion, finely chopped
  • 70g carrots, grated
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 700g minced beef
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup freshly grated tomatoes (or chopped canned tomatoes)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (optional, depending on the acidity of the tomatoes)
  • 1 pinch ground allspice berries

The greek yogurt “béchamel”

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp cornflour
  • 2 cups full fat cold milk
  • 1 cup full fat greek yogurt
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
  • 1/ cup grated feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated gruyère cheese
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
cretan artichoke

cretan artichoke

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Squeeze a couple lemons into it and drop the lemon halves into the water. I keep one half of a lemon off to the side in case I need it for rubbing on the cut sides of the artichoke as they tend to oxidize quite quickly. Lemon juice retards oxidation.

Start by pulling off the outermost dark green leaves to expose the more tender, lighter ones within. Once you’ve gotten most of the leaves trimmed, you can slice through the top portion of the remaining centre leaves. It should look like a closed rosebud. Trim the stem, using a paring knife to remove all the tough green exterior. If you have large thorny artichokes with a full choke in the centre, you will have to remove that too by scooping it out with a spoon.  As each artichoke is done, drop it in your bowl of cold lemon water. Repeat with your remaining artichokes.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Boil the artichokes for about 10 minutes until tender. Remove from the water using a perforated spoon and let cool. When cool enough to handle cut the artichokes in slices.

Preheat your oven grill to high temperature.

Place the potato slices in a single layer on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Brush each slice on both sides with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and grill about 10-12 minutes, turning once and rotating pan halfway through, until soft and golden brown on each side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the meantime prepare the meat sauce. Place a large pan over medium heat with 3 Tbsp of the olive oil and cook the onions and carrots for about 7 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes stirring regularly. Add the minced meat, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon, cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Deglaze with the red wine and wait 1-2 minutes to evaporate. Stir in the tomatoes, the sugar (if using), the remaining olive oil, a pinch of ground allspice and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer covered for about 40-50 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated.

For the greek yogurt béchamel whisk the olive oil and the cornflour together in a saucepan over medium heat until the mixture starts to froth, for about one minute. Remove from the heat and whisk for 2-3 minutes. Add the milk whisking constantly and then the yogurt.Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, and don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled, it’ll smooth out once it is boiled and thickened. Add the nutmeg, the feta cheese, sea salt to taste and continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Set aside.

Now it’s time to put it all together and bake our moussaka.

arrange the artichoke slices

arrange the artichoke slices

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan).

In a lightly greased oven proofed dish (mine was 24x34cm) place the potatoes in a single layer. Cover with half of the meat sauce. Arrange the artichoke slices and cover with the remaining  meat sauce. Top with the greek yogurt béchamel sauce and sprinkle with the gruyère and parmesan cheese.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Allow to cool a little before serving.

artichoke moussaka

artichoke moussaka

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