Vegetarian eggplant moussaka gratin

Moussaka meets gratin (hold the meat).
Moussaka meets gratin (hold the meat). Photo: Katrina Meynink
Dietary
Vegetarian

A hybrid of two of the world's greatest comfort foods. Heavenly as a side to some slow-cooked Greek lamb or as a standalone vegetarian meal. The key to getting crisp, cooked-through potato for this gratin is to slice waxy fleshed potatoes so thin you could almost see through them. This way they sit on the bechamel rather than sink into it and you get that glorious differentiation between the layers.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

4 red onions, peeled, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp tomato paste

400ml chicken or vegetable stock

400g canned crushed tomatoes

400ml red wine

1 cinnamon quill

3 tbsp finely chopped oregano, plus extra leaves to serve

½ tsp dried oregano, plus a pinch

2 medium eggplants (about 650g-750g), diced into 4cm cubes

800g potato, sliced lengthways using a mandolin (skin on)

Cheese sauce

50g butter

70g plain flour

½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg

800ml milk

80g parmesan cheese, grated

80g kefalotyri cheese, grated (or use pecorino)

2 egg yolks

salt and pepper to season

½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg, plus a pinch

Method

1. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frypan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and stir occasionally until golden (seven to 10 minutes).

2. Add tomato paste and stir continuously for two minutes, then add stock, tomato, wine, cinnamon, fresh oregano and half a teaspoon of dried oregano and bring to a simmer.

3. Add the chopped eggplant and cook over low-medium heat, just below simmering point, for one hour or until the eggplant is completely soft and the sauce has reduced to a slightly runny chutney-style consistency. Remove from heat and remove the cinnamon quill. (If your frypan isn't ovenproof, transfer the cooked eggplant and tomato sauce to a casserole dish.)

4. Preheat the oven to 170C (160C fan-forced).

5. To make the cheese sauce, add the butter to a saucepan over medium heat and swirl until melted. Add the flour and whisk frequently until combined (one to two minutes). Add milk in batches, stirring well after each addition, until all the milk is incorporated, then stir occasionally until thick (three to five minutes). Remove from heat, stir in the two cheeses and egg yolks, the half teaspoon of nutmeg and season to taste.

6. Pour the cheese sauce over the eggplant mixture and spread evenly to create a flat surface.

7. Allow to cool slightly before adding the potato, arranging and overlapping the discs in an even layer. Sprinkle with a pinch each of dried oregano and nutmeg, place in the oven and cook for approximately one hour. For the final 15 minutes, turn on the grill top function to help crisp the top of the potatoes. Keep a close eye on them during this time to ensure the potato doesn't burn.

8. Remove, scatter with extra oregano leaves and serve hot.

If you like this recipe try Katrina's maple chipotle sweet potato gratin.

Find more of Katrina Meynink's recipes in the Good Food Favourite Recipes cookbook.

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