Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Mesa-aha, مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant Ovenbake

Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant Ovenbake

I took the kids to the park this morning for a play date and one of the mothers was talking about a Moussaka that she made, a classic Greek dish.  She said that it had eggplant, meat and béchamel but was not very tasty. I said I was not sure about the taste but that it reminded me of Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, an Eggplant Ovenbake that my mum used to make and which I LOVED eating at home .  Mum would slice the eggplant and salt it then leave it out in the sun for several hours in a colander to drain out the bitter liquid. I remember going out to check on the eggplant slices because I couldn't wait for it to be made so I could eat it.   Oh! So delicious.  This was such a treat for me and I remember coming home from University and on more than one occasion my mum would make me this – my comfort food.  We ate this at home with rice and a salad.

A while back while going through the recipes I had written down trying to replicate of my mother’s home cooking, I thought initially both the eggplant and zucchini dishes (Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant Ovenbake) and the Zucchini Ovenbake or Causa bil béchamel) were made the same way.  That is vegetable, meat, vegetable, meat and finally béchamel sauce.  I then decided that the eggplant must have had the béchamel sauce while the zucchini did not.  I made both dishes and photographed them but for some reason I wasn’t sure that this was right either.

I rang my dad (since my mother has passed away and there is no way of asking her) and asked him about the two dishes because I couldn’t shake the feeling something wasn’t right somewhere but I just couldn’t work out what.

He was able to shed some light on my very undefinable problem.  Apparently, while I had béchamel on the eggplant dish my mother didn’t and while I had no béchamel on the zucchini dish my mother did.  Well…that certainly cleared things up but it meant I had to recreate the photos for both dishes.  I now have a photo version with Béchamel for each recipe and truth be told it is great on both.  

Well, I dont know if this is as good as mum's but here is my version (without  béchamel, the way it should be).

Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant Ovenbake

1 kg eggplant
2 tablespoons salt
¼ cup/ 60 ml tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
750g minced or ground beef or 500g beef mince and 250g lamb mince
250g tomato puree or Passata sauce
400g can of diced tomatoes
1 tub/140g tomato paste
2 teaspoons mixed spice / allspice / mace
1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs
Salt, pepper to taste
2 cups / 500ml water
¼ cup breadcrumbs

Serves 6

Slice the eggplant in to 1 cm or ½ inch slices. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally, tossing to coat them.  Cover them with a plate that is weighted down by a can or jar. Place the colander in the sink for at least 30 minutes to an hour so that excess moisture and bitterness can be drawn out (or outside sitting in the sun for 5 or 6 hours as my mum used to do). Remove the excess salt off the eggplant then fry, in batches, in oil until golden.  Drain on paper towel.

Sliced eggplant

To make the meat sauce

Heat oil in a large pan then add onion and fry over medium heat until translucent.  Add mince and cook breaking up any lumps until it is browned and almost all the liquid has evaporated.
Add chopped tomato, tomato puree, and tomato paste, herbs and spices then cook for 2 minutes before adding 2 cups water.  Bring it to the boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered until meat is cooked and the liquid has reduced, and almost completely evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.  Taste and add more spice if required.

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas mark 4). 

To assemble

Grease a 20 x 15 cm tray with butter or oil and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over.   Tap the tray to spread the crumbs in a thin layer and remove any excess.  Layer half the zucchini over the base then cover with half the cooked mince.  Repeat with another layer of zucchini and the remainder of the meat.  Spread the béchamel sauce evenly over the top and bake, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant ovenbake
Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant ovenbake

Here was the original photo of the eggplant dish, so creamy and absolutely delicious.  I think that I would very happily make it this way with béchamel again.

Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant Ovenbake (with Beshamel)
Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant ovenbake



  1. I was so happy to see allspice used this is the version I had from an Egyptian cook and it was soooo delicious

  2. I was so happy to see allspice used this is the version I had from an Egyptian cook and it was soooo delicious