Moussaka II

An unusual dish, possibly of Romanian origin, Moussaka II may be accompanied by hot tomato sauce and Croquettes de Pommes de Terre. The aubergine skins which line the mould are edible, though some people prefer to remove them after cooking.

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

3 medium-sized aubergines , halved lengthways

1 tablespoon plus

1 teaspoon salt

2 fl. oz. cold water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 oz. butter

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

1 large garlic clove, crushed

1 large green pepper, white pith removed, seeded and finely chopped

8 oz. small button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

1 lb. lean mutton or lamb, minced

2 tablespoons tomato puree

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill, or

11 teaspoons dried dill

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon flour

2 eggs, well beaten

Using the vegetable oil, grease a 2-pint souffle dish or mould and set it aside.

With the point of a sharp knife, deeply score the flesh of the aubergines , leaving the skins intact.

Sprinkle over the tablespoon of salt and lay the aubergines in a colander, cut sides down. Set aside to degorge for 30 minutes. Dry with kitchen paper towels and set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the water and lemon juice to the boil over moderate heat. Reduce the heat to very low and place the aubergine halves in the pan, cut sides down, in one layer if possible.

Cover the pan and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the flesh is very tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife.

Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the aubergines from the pan and set them aside until they are cool enough to handle.

With a sharp-edged metal spoon, scoop the flesh out of the aubergine halves, keeping the skins intact. Place the flesh on a board and chop it. Set aside.

Line the bottom and sides of the prepared dish or mould with the auber-gine skins, pressing down well. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F (Gas Mark 4, 180°C).

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the onion, garlic and green pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the onion is golden brown.

Add the mushrooms and aubergine flesh and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mushrooms are just tender.

Stir in the minced mutton or lamb, the tomato puree, pine nuts, dill, paprika, pepper and the remaining salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm. With a wooden spoon, beat in the flour and eggs and combine thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and smooth it down with the back of the spoon. Cover the dish tightly with alum-inium foil and place it in a roasting tin half-filled with hot water.

Place the tin in the centre of the oven and bake for 1 hour.

Remove the tin from the oven. Lift the dish out of the tin.

Hold a warmed serving plate, inverted, over the dish and reverse the two. The moussaka should come out easily.

Serve immediately.

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