Our eagerly awaited South African summer is approaching with full speed and the first batches of Aubergines are up for grabs. So how about whipping up a good old Moussaka for Sunday Lunch? My boyfriend´s mother Brenda comes over, the perfect occasion to get some magic going. I´ll dedicate my Moussaka bake to her today. Grass fed Moussaka for Brenda. Yes baby!
Moussaka is the perfect alternative to Lasagna, a much more nutritious meal as it uses aubergines instead of Lasagna sheets made out of wheat. This one is going to be an extra nutritious masterpiece though. I popped in at The Meat Merchants today on my way to the barber and bought some grass fed beef. I also replaced the nutritiously poor Bechamel Sauce with fresh calcium and Vitamin A packed Ricotta cheese. Most underrated cheese ever but that´s not for here.
grass fed minced beef from Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants 500g or a bit more
aubergines sliced 4
onion sliced 1
fresh garlic crushed 2 gloves
cinnamon sticks 1t
crushed chilies 1t
cumin seeds crushed 1t
bay leafs 3 – 4
fresh oregano 1 bunch
Ricotta Cheese as much as you like
Grass fed grated cheese from Camphill as much as you like
Coconut Oil from Crede Natural oils for frying as much as you need
Organic cold pressed olive oil to drizzle over the bake before serving
Aubergine alla Parmigiana is the vegetarian Italian sister of the meaty Greek Moussaka. Both bakes start with one of my favorite things in the kitchen: Frying eggplants. make sure you use a kind of oil with a high smoke point such as Coconut Oil or Grape-seed Oil. Simply slice the aubergines and fry them in very hot oil (+-365 degrees). The ideal way to test if your oil has reached the perfect temperature for frying aubergines is the bread test: Drop a small piece of white bread into the oil. It shouldn´t take more than 60 minutes to get brown. Fry all slices until golden brown and place on a kitchen towel so the excess oil can be absorbed. There´s nothing better than a kitchen filled with the smell of freshly fried aubergines.
Some claim that female eggplants are more bitter than male ones because they have more seeds. Others say that eggplants are fruits and don´t have a gender. All convictions aside, salting eggplants surely helps against bitterness and so does cutting out the seeds. However, the best strategy is simple: Buy your aubergines fresh and use them right away. I always do that and never had a bitter aubergine in my life. And I live off aubergines, so trust me!
Congratulations, you just fried the foundation for your Moussaka master piece. Get started with the meat sauce and braise the onion with garlic in a little bit of coconut oil until soft, then add your spices. Let the spices roast slightly for a couple of seconds and then add about 6 grated tomatoes. Now sprinkle the grass fed beef into your sauce and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Once the meat sauce is done, add some sea salt, black pepper and fresh oregano.
When you start layering your Moussaka that´s where the grated cheese and Ricotta comes in. Simply layer fried aubergine slices, meat sauce, a tiny amount of cheese and a generous portion of Ricotta cheese. I prefer to bake my Moussaka a little bit longer until it shows a golden crust at the top. 30 Minutes by 200 degrees in a pre-heated oven should do.
Why grass fed beef?
Pasture raised animals live a significantly better life and are a great deal healthier for us. However, the most compelling health benefit is the fact that animals who follow their natural diet contain not only more “good fats” and lesser “bad fats” than factory farmed cattle, grass fed animals are actually able to lower your “bad LDL cholesterol levels” as it is leaner. It is scientifically proven, that their meat contains CLA, which works against cancer and promotes fat burning and hold up to four times more Omega 3. Eatwilde.com summed up the negatives of factory farming perfectly as they educate their readers about the indescribable stress and abuse of factory farmed animals, the pollution of air, land and water and the unnecessary and irresponsible use of antibiotics, hormones and drugs.
The benefits of grass fed animals and ethically sourced meat is not only beneficial for our environment but also for our health and the health of our families. On this note let me recommend a book for you which educates on the benefits of pasture based farming versus factory farming: Pasture Perfect written by Jo Robinson. An interesting read for everyone who is interested in eating more food with more nutritional value.