Bengali “Moussaka”

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I make absolutely no claim to the Hellenic qualities of this in any way whatsoever. Far from it. “Baigun bortha” is a classic Bengali mash-up of flame-roasted aubergine-flesh, coriander, lemon, garlic, mustard oil, cumin, chilli and salt.

As a major keema fan I was always going to love this. The idea of making it has been teasing me for ages, and this spate of gloomy weather was the perfect excuse for its execution.  Fragrant spicy lamb layered with smoky roasted aubergine, smothered with a creamy Gruyere-flecked sauce; and then baked in a hot oven until the flavours “get together” in a way that would make my dear old Grandma blush.

My idea of heaven.

I know, I know. Fusion food is more often than not a bad idea, but this is something special. Seriously. It’s one of those inventions that’s so utterly delectable you can’t wait to make it for everyone you know (a salve for my poor bruised arms/ego, following my recent sojourn into the hellish world that is home-made mayonnaise).

Apart from the topping, it’s really quite healthy as the aubergines are mashed with only the merest slick of mustard oil.  I’ve used the keema recipe from the brilliant Madhur Jaffrey’s  “Quick and Easy Indian Cookery” but with less oil, no peas and a touch of curry powder.

Ingredients:

For the keema:

115g (4oz) onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

5 cm (2 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

5-6 large cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp curry powder

200g (7oz ) tomatoes, chopped

4 tbsp natural yoghurt

560g (1 1/4 lb) minced lamb

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp garam masala

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 fresh, hot green chilli, chopped

6 tbsp coarsely chopped coriander

For the aubergines:

2-3 fat aubergines

1 tsp olive oil

1 large clove garlic, crushed

A good squeeze of lemon juice (tamarind is a nice substitute)

½ tsp mustard oil (go easy with this as the flavour can be v.overpowering)

1 tsp Maldon salt

½ tsp sugar

1 tbsp finely chopped coriander

1 tsp garam masala

½ tsp curry powder

2 tsp toasted and roughly ground cumin seeds

½ finely chopped fresh green chilli

For the bechamel topping:

85g/3oz butter

85g/3oz plain flour

568ml/1pt milk

85g/3oz parmesan, grated

115g/4oz gruyère, grated

2 egg yolks

1 egg

Method:

  • Smear the aubergines with the  olive oil and then place directly over a low gas flame (or in my case an electric hob) for about 20-30 minutes, turning now and again until the vegetables are on the point of collapse and have charred all over.
  • Place to one side until cool to the touch.
  • Make the keema. Place the onions, ginger and garlic in a blender or food processor and finely chop.
  • Put the oil in a wide, non-stick pan and set over a medium-high heat.
  • When hot, put in the finely chopped mixture of onions, garlic and ginger.
  • Stir and fry until lightly brown.
  • Put in the chilli powder, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, curry powder and turmeric. Stir a couple of times and add the tomatoes and yoghurt.
  • Stir over a high heat until the tomatoes have softened, put in the meat, salt and garam masala.
  • Stir breaking up any lumps for a couple of minutes. Add 250ml (8fl oz) water. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  • Cover, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Add the lemon juice, green chilli and coriander. Stir and simmer. Cover and cook for a final 10 minutes.
  • Flake away the charred skin of the aubergine (this should come away easily).
  • Mash the smoky interiors with the crushed garlic, the mustard oil, lemon juice, salt, sugar, cumin, coriander, chilli, garam masala and curry powder.  Set aside.
  • Make the topping. Melt the butter over a low heat. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon.
  • Remove from the heat and gradually add the milk.
  • Stir continously until the mixture thickens.
  • Return to the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cheeses and season to taste.
  • Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with one third of the keema mixture.  Follow this with a layer of the aubergine mixture. Continue layering until all the keema and all the aubergine is used up, making sure you end with a layer of the keema on top.
  • Pour over the sauce and grate a final sprinkling of Gruyere over the top.
  • Bake in a hot oven (220C/ 428F/Gas Mark 7) for about 15 minutes or until golden and bubbling on top.
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11 Comments on “Bengali “Moussaka””

  1. Kano says:

    Hi Rejina
    I never thought that you can do grilled Aubergine on a gas cooker. I have a halogen hub since I moved to my flat and I miss my gas hub. We use the flame grilled aubergine to make Mutabal and Baba Ghanouj. Have you tried any of these dishes?

    • gastrogeek says:

      Hi Kano

      Yes, it just about works although the flavour is never quite as good as with a gas flame. I adore Baba Ghanouj but thought Mutabal and Baba Ghanouj were the same thing? What is the difference between the two? And what about Imam Bayaldi?

  2. Ben Norum says:

    I must try Baigun Bortha – I love baba ganoush but this sounds so much better. I’m also now thinking of making some hummus with mustard oil instead of olive oil and coriander instead of parsley….

    I love the new blog by the way – it’s inspired me to finally start one of my own

    • gastrogeek says:

      Thanks Ben! Let me know how you get on – love the sound of the hummus, but I would go easy on the mustard oil, it can be quite strong….

  3. Kano says:

    Hi Rejina
    They are actually two different things although some people use both names for mutabal.
    Mutabal is made with aubergines, yoghurt, Tahini and garlic. while Baba Ghanouj is made with aubergines, pomegranate molasses, tomato, walnut and parsley.
    Check my page on UKFBA. I have photos for both dishes.
    Imam Byaldi is a Turkish word and I am not sure exactly how it is made.

    • gastrogeek says:

      Hi Kano

      That makes sense – I have only had Baba Ghanouj, but will definitely give Mutabal a go – it sounds gorgeous. I must check out your page.

    • Ben Norum says:

      The Baba Ghanouj sounds brilliant – i will have to try that. I’ve only had the Mutabel but always called it Baba Ghanouj…

  4. meemalee says:

    Aubergines scare me but I love, love, love keema :)

    • gastrogeek says:

      These aren’t really that “auberginey” as such, more smoky and creamy…..Go on, don’t be afraid, I urge you to give it a go!

  5. kavey says:

    Oh what a cunning cunning cunning idea.

    I too love keema and aubergines and moussaka too. I like your fusion idea on this one!


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