Merlot with Mediterranean Moussaka – Reimagined

MOUSSAKA POTJIE

This August, Donnie celebrates Merlot and Moussaka. It is as easy to make this recipe on an open fire in a Dutch oven as it is to bake it in an electric oven. Don’t worry too much about getting the moussaka perfectly layered like a lasagne – the proof is ultimately in the taste, and a bottle of our finest Merlot will be the best companion for this dish originating from the Eastern Mediterranean.

WHAT YOU NEED (serves 4–6)

600 –700 g aubergines (chopped into chunky cubes)
3 tots salt (on the aubergines, not into the potjie)
500 g beef mince
3 tots olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 onion (sliced)
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1-2 cup white wine
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tin cherry or chopped tomatoes (400 g)
2 tots tomato paste (or a 50 g sachet)
1 tot fresh parsley (chopped)

FOR THE WHITE SAUCE
1 tot butter 1 tot flour
1 cup stock (vegetable, chicken or beef)
1 cup milk
1 to 2 cups grated cheese (preferably a mature Cheddar)
salt and freshly ground pepper

WHAT TO DO

  1. Aubergines are also called eggplants or brinjals. So when you go shopping, it might be labelled under any of those names. You need about 600 –700 g of aubergine but as they are not always the same size, you will have to buy by weight and you will probably need two or three.
    Go home, rinse the aubergines and chop them into chunks. Place the aubergine chunks on a flat surface like a cutting board, sprinkle the 3 tots of salt over them, and leave to stand for 20 minutes. The salt will draw out liquid from the aubergine and make it less bitter. This will also lead to the correct consistency of the final meal. After 20 minutes, place them in a colander and rinse well. It’s important to rinse the salt off, as the extra salt will make your dish too salty.
  2. Position your potjie over flames or hot coals and then fry the beef mince in 1 tot of olive oil in the potjie. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of ground pepper. When the meat starts to brown, remove all of it from the potjie and keep in a safe place away from flies, dogs and hyenas.
  3. Now add the remaining 2 tots of olive oil to the potjie and fry the onion and the prepared aubergine pieces from step 1. Fry all of this for as long as it takes to get the aubergine pieces to drop their attitude and soften up. The exact time will depend on the shape of your potjie and the heat of your fire but let’s say in the region of 6 minutes.
  4. Now add the garlic, stir that through and then also add the fried mince back into the pot and stir through.
  5. Next you throw in all the remaining ingredients (but not the sauce ingredients), which means you add the wine, cinnamon, oregano, tomatoes, tomato paste and parsley. Put the lid on the potjie and let it simmer very gently for 20 minutes. At this stage you want coals, but not flames, under the potjie.
  6. During this time, make the sauce by melting the butter in a pot and wait until it starts to bubble. Add the flour and mix well. Add the stock a little bit at a time, and stir continuously. Once all the stock is in, add the milk in the same way until you have used all of it, stirring continuously. Stir in all the cheese and your sauce is now ready. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Use your wooden spoon to slightly even out and flatten the aubergine pieces and their other friends in the potjie. Pour over the white sauce and put the lid on the potjie.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes with coals under the potjie and by placing coals on the lid of the potjie. There is a fair margin for error here and the meal will in all likelihood be ready when you think that it is ready.
  9. Serve with a bottle or two of Elgin Vintners Merlot.

References: Jan Braai (2015) – Die Demokratiese Republiek van Braai ISBN 978 0 7981 7106 9 Human & Rousseau.

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