This recipe comes from the cookbook Mediterranean Hot, by Aglaia Kremezi. It’s one of Melanie’s favorites, but she doesn’t make it except a couple times per year because of the amount of time it takes to put together. This is definitely not a weeknight dinner. But it is very good, slightly sweet, kind of spicy, very savory. Definitely give it a try. (We discussed it in episode 19 of our podcast Returning the Betts, if you’d like to know more about the recipe and the cookbook.)
From the book: “I cook this lighter and much hotter version of the ever-popular dish, moussaka, at home. It tastes much better the day after you make it, when all the flavors have had time to blend. Prepare it one day in advance, let it cool, refrigerate it, and reheat it just before serving. It is ideal for parties and you can easily double or triple the recipe.”
2 large eggplants (about 1-1/2 pounds), sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
3 large red bell peppers, seeded, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound ground lean lamb
1-1/2 cups chopped onions
3-5 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or 1-1/2 to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/3 cup red wine
1/2 cup dried Zante currants
1 pound ripe red tomatoes, grated or 2-1/2 cups good quality canned chopped tomatoes with their juice
8-12 grindings of black pepper or to taste
1-2 pinches of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 – 1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (optional)
1 pound plain Greek yogurt (or 2 parts plain yogurt and 1 part heavy cream)
2 egg yolks
Salt the eggplant slices and place them in a colander. Let them drain for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile heat about 1 inch of olive oil in a deep, heavy skillet and briefly fry the potato slices without letting them cook through. Remove with a slotted spoon and layer them on the bottom of a 9×12-inch glass or ceramic ovenproof dish at least 2-1/2 inches deep (or a lasagna pan).
In the same frying oil, sauté the peppers, stirring often, until they start to color, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Also reserve the frying oil.
Measure out 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil and return it to the pan. Sauté the lamb in the olive oil, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until no longer red. Add the chopped onions and continue to sauté, stirring, for another 10 minutes or until the onions become translucent. Add the Aleppo pepper and the red wine, and after the mixture boils add the currants and tomatoes. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg, and add the Ras el Hanout if you are using it. Remove from the heat. The mixture should be quite spicy.
Wipe the eggplant slices with paper towels and place them on a baking sheet. Brush on both sides with the reserved oil, and broil until golden on both sides. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Arrange the eggplant slices over the potatoes. It doesn’t matter if they overlap. Layer the sautéed peppers over the eggplants and top with the lamb and tomato sauce.
In a bowl, mix the yogurt with the egg yolks, stirring well. Pour over the lamb and tomato mixture.
Bake for about 1 hour, or a little more, until the top starts to color and the moussaka is bubbly. Let cool completely, refrigerate, and reheat just before serving.
To reheat, place in a preheated oven at 400°F for 20 to 30 minutes, until bubbly.