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Mediterranean cooking with Nundle produce


Duncan has declared that we do not need any more cook books, which is a fair call considering our vast collection from more than 30 years of adult cooking, and many timeless classics inherited from our relatives. Yet 'Rick Stein from Venice to Istanbul' arrived in the mail, ordered by Duncan, as a present for me! We love a Rick Stein program and enjoyed the Rick Stein from Venice to Istanbul series on SBS On Demand. Although we do not live in a Mediterranean climate, the dishes cooked in the series featured many of the ingredients we grow on our small farm; lamb, pork, honey, eggs, zucchini, eggplant, capsicum, potatoes, silverbeet, and beans, and the herbs basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, and parsley. This summer Rick's book has rarely left the kitchen bench and we've enjoyed multiple sittings of Eggs with Tomato, Red Peper & Green Chillies, Lamb & Pistachio Kofte, Chicken & Tomato Stew, Moussaka, and Greek Salad, with many more recipes to explore. The Moussaka below makes excellent use of an abundant eggplant, zucchini and potato harvest and tastes so good we made it twice in four days. If you're looking for an excellent dish to share with family and friends over Easter, give it a try.

Moussaka, Rick Stein from Venice to Istanbul

What you need: Salt, 1 aubergine, thinly sliced lengthways, 3 courgette, thinly sliced lengthways, 300ml olive oil, 2 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced lengthways, 2 small onions, diced, 2 cloves garlic, diced, 750g minced beef, 3 beefsteak tomatoes (or 6-8 Roma tomatoes), roughly chopped, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, 12 turns of black peppermill. For the bechamel: 100ml butter, 100g plain flour, 750ml full-fat milk, 3 eggs, 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg, 150g grated cheese (Rick suggests graviera or Gruyere).

What you do: Salt the aubergine and eggplant slices in a bowl, leaving them for about 30 minutes, then rinse, drain, and dry on paper towel. Fry in a generous amount of olive oil over a medium heat until lightly browned and starting to soften. Drain on paper towel and set aside. I found it useful to stack the aubergine and courgette separately. Fry the potatoes in the same way.

In a separate pan, heat about 70ml of the olive oil and fry the onion and garlic until softened (5-7 minutes). Add the minced beef and brown before adding tomatoes, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Simmer for 30-40 minutes. When done remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick.

In a deep oven proof dish, 24 x 35cm as a guide, arrange the potatoes to cover the base of the pan. Then layer with one third of the beef, then the aubergine, another third of the beef, the courgettes, and finish with the remaining beef.

Heat the oven to 220C (I found 200C was better in a fan forced oven to avoid browning the top). To make the bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat, stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk and incorporate by stirring until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and whisk in the eggs, nutmeg and 100g of grated cheese. Spread the bechamel over the layered meat and vegetables, and top with 50g of grated cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool. Serve warm. Holds well to reheat. 

Megan Trousdale
Megan Trousdale


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