With less than two weeks to go until my third baby arrives, I’ve been in nesting mode – it’s amazing really how this instinct kicks in just when you think you have no energy left! For me, this has also meant batch cooking and madly bookmarking easy and healthy recipes to support being a new mummy again, such as Pinch of Yum’s Creamy Potato Kale Soup, portions of vegetable lasagna (also layered up with kale and spinach) and ‘quick to throw together or stick in the oven’ recipes, such as the easy Lamb and Potato Moussaka below. A traditional Moussaka would use layers of grilled aubergine, but my kids are really not keen on the texture, so I just replace the aubergine with thinly sliced potatoes. I’m also sure I won’t want to be standing around stirring a Béchamel (white sauce) so a fail-safe tub of crème fraîche along with some grated cheese is a useful back-up plan for making a super-quick cheese sauce ready to pour over the top of this dish before it goes into the oven. I’ve included tips for making ahead and freezing in the recipe notes below.
Part-way through my marathon batch-cook, the freezer decided to break down. So I’ve been scrubbing, clearing out and cleaning that, too. Remind me never to freeze red wine in sandwich bags again for later use in sauces, since that’s what created the biggest mess. Can I blame Nigella for that one?! I’m sure it was one of her tips… Luckily, I’ve saved most of what I had already prepared food-wise, but still, it’s not what you need. On the plus side, everyone, including the husband, declared the Lamb and Potato Moussaka dish to be super-tasty – so much so that I’ll have to make another batch to freeze. If you are vegetarian or simply looking to include more pulses into your diet, you can add a tin of cooked lentils to the lamb or leave out the lamb altogether and just make the base out of beans and/lentils (with onions, garlic, the tomato sauce and spices).
I’ve also been busy road-testing a new kitchen gadget – the Sage By Heston Blumenthal Kitchen Wizz Pro, which I hope to be writing about tomorrow. It’s really a super-powerful food processor, with plenty of chopping and slicing options. I was able to quickly whizz up the onions and garlic for this Moussaka, make my own quick lamb mince (I used British lam leg steaks) as well as thinly slicing the potatoes for the top of this dish. I’ve been extremely pleased with results so far and look forward to coming up with more time-saving recipes, soon.
- 5-6 large potatoes, I used Maris Piper, peels and finely sliced
- 2-4 tablespoons olive oil or rapeseed oil
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
- 500g/one pound lean ground lamb mince
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste/puree
- 1 can chopped plum tomatoes
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the cheese sauce -
- 200g/one cup crème fraîche
- 50g/half a cup grated cheddar cheese
- 50g/half a cup grated Parmesan cheese
- A dash of milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- A little butter for the baking dish
- Heat a tablespoon of rapeseed oil in a large, flat pan. Firstly, start by gently browning the potato slices. Do this by frying a few slices for one-two minutes on each side, in batches, until they are all slightly golden. Add a little more oil to the pan as necessary. Keep all the potatoes to one side, on some kitchen paper, until later. You can skip the potato-browning stage if you want a quicker version.
- Once that's done, in the same pan, add a further tablespoon of oil and cook the onions and garlic until soft and golden. Add the minced/ground lamb, turning up the heat a little to brown the meat all over. Sprinkle over the cinnamon and dried oregano and stir. Add in the tomato paste, canned tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Turn down the heat and allow the sauce to simmer for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, make the quick cheese sauce by gently heating the creme fraiche and stirring through all the cheese until melted. Add a splash of milk to loosen the sauce, take it off the heat, allow to cool a little then whisk in the beaten egg.
- When you are ready to eat, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
- Lightly grease three small dishes or one large baking dish with a little butter. Spoon in some of the lamb sauce, then a layer of potato, then a further layer of lamb sauce followed again by potato. Pour the cheese sauce over the top.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and the top is golden.
I hope you feel inspired to give this easy Lamb and Potato Moussaka a try – it’s a great family-friendly meal or perhaps even a crowd-pleased to bookmark for the upcoming World Cup!
What are your favourite batch-cook or make ahead recipes?