We picked the last of our zucchinis this week. It's been a reasonably good season, and our three zucchini plants have kept us and the neighbours contented for a while. Fortunately, Peter has come to enjoy the vegetable and loves it baked into something delicious, like my spinach and zucchini frittata, chocolate walnut zucchini cake, or stuffed with bacon, kransky and my bolognese toppers.
A few weeks ago, I caught Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage, on TV talking about great ways to use up leftover bolognese sauce. He suggested a bolognese moussaka made with courgettes. Perfect! In all my many years of cooking, I have never, ever made moussaka in any form. I know... where have I been, right?!
With home grown zucchinis at the ready and my own fabulously flavoursome bolognese, I was ready to go. The results: well this dish was absolutely delicious, and the recipe is a keeper. Thank you Hugh for the inspiration!
ZUCCHINI MOUSSAKA WITH BOLOGNESE
1 large or 2-2 medium sized zucchinis
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
1 quantity of bolognese sauce a la Lizzy (see below), warmed
For the cheese sauce:
25g plain (AP) flour
300mls low fat milk
sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
1/2-3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (use part to sprinkle on top)
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Trim the ends off the zucchini and then cut lengthwise into 3-4mm thick ribbons. Place them onto the lined baking sheet and brush lightly with the oil. Pop the tray into the oven and roast the zucchini ribbons for 10-20 minutes, until they are just tender and starting to turn golden. Remove from the oven and allow the ribbons to cool. Leave the oven on.
Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then stir in the flour. Gradually add the milk, whisking or stirring continuously to remove any lumps. Your aim is to create a rich and smooth white sauce. Stir in up to half a cup of the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and white pepper, to taste. Remove the sauce from the heat and set it aside briefly.
Next, line a 20x20cm or 22x22cm ovenproof dish with parchment and spoon some of the warmed bolognese sauce onto the lined base. Layer with some of the pre-cooked zucchini ribbons, then spoon over more of the bolognese sauce. Continue this process until you have used up all of the ingredients. Finish by topping with the cheese sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake at 190 degrees C for 20-25 minutes until the cheese sauce on top is bubbling and nicely browned. Serves 3-4.
BOLOGNESE SAUCE A LA LIZZY
500g lean beef mince
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
1 clove smoked garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stick celery, diced
6 medium sized button mushrooms, chopped
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 tablespoon mixed dried herbs: parsley, oregano, thyme, basil
1/2-1 cup good red wine
140g tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon Porcini salt (optional)
sea salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a saute pan or frypan. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery, and cook the mixture over a low-medium heat until the onions are soft and transparent. You can salt the vegetables at this stage, as it will draw out the juices and also sweeten them somewhat. Next, add the mince and brown it well, breaking down any lumps with your wooden spoon. Turn up the heat if you need to do so to prevent the mince from stewing. Toss in the mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, herbs and red wine, and then stir in the tomato paste. Lower the heat again and simmer gently for up to an hour or longer, noting that you want a rich, flavoursome sauce. If you need to, add 1/4 cup beef stock, to prevent the sauce from catching. Season to taste with black pepper, and porcini salt (if using). Serves 4.
Tell me dear readers and fellow cooks, have you ever made moussaka? I bet you have! Go on, do tell!
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.