Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bulgarian Moussaka

     The Wide World Of Moussaka!
     Moussaka has its oldest origins in Arabic cuisine.  In fact, every variation of the spelling of the word Moussaka can be traced to the Arabic language.  Arabic Moussaka is traditionally prepared as a chilled dish that is served as mezze or as an entrée.  
     After its Arabic origins Moussaka became a traditional Turkish entrée many centuries ago.  At about the same time in history, Moussaka became popular in Greece.  Later in culinary history, old Egyptian versions of Arabic moussaka were modified and topped with a bechamel sauce, during both the French and Italian occupations of North Africa.  
     Northern Grecian cuisine is basically Balkan Mountain region cuisine.  The Turkish Ottoman Empire occupation influenced Balkan cuisines, but the steadfast culinary traditions of the original inhabitants lived on.  
     Southeastern European cuisine has minor Turkish influences, but after the Ottoman occupation, the strong influences of Turkish cuisine was toned down or abandoned by the locals as an act of cultural preservation.  Many of the popular Turkish recipes from that age were completely reworked by local cooks, so the recipes had the signature look of traditional Balkan region food.

     I have published recipe articles in the past for Grecian and Egyptian style Moussaka.  Both of those styles of Moussaka are made with eggplant.  Bulgarian Moussaka has more of its own Eastern European cuisine influence and it is quite different than those two versions of Moussaka.  Bulgarian Moussaka contains no eggplant at all and this is due in part to the rejection of the Ottoman Empire culinary influences.  Eggplant is a main food staple in Islamic cultures, not Bulgarian culture.
     Potato replaces eggplant in Bulgarian Moussaka.  The potatoes can be sliced or diced this style of Moussaka.  I chose to dice the potatoes for this recipe.
     Instead of lamb, Bulgarian Moussaka is usually made with pork or beef.  Sometimes it is made with a combination of those two meats.  Bulgarian Moussaka is mildly spiced and it has a comfortable hearty flavor that is perfect for a cold day.  
     Béchamel sauce is not used for the topping in this recipe.  Bulgarian Moussaka requires a simple egg and yogurt custard topping.  This style of topping is often used for both Greek and Turkish Moussaka.  
     Sometimes cheese is added to the Bulgarian Moussaka yogurt custard topping.  I chose to add a little bit of Bulgarian Kashkaval sheep's milk cheese to the topping.  If you add cheese, then a small splash of milk should be added too, so the texture remains light. 

     If you happen to not like eggplant, then Bulgarian Moussaka will be to your liking!  Bulgarian Moussaka is the best version of Moussaka to make on a cold winter day.  This style of Moussaka fills the tummy with comfort and warmth! 

     Bulgarian Moussaka:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty individual portion!
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of lard or unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped onion.
     Add 1 minced clove of garlic.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 6 ounces of lean ground pork or ground beef.  (Or a mixture of the two ground meats.)
     Sauté till the meat begins to brown.  Break up any clumps of ground meat in the pan as it cooks.
     Step 3:  Add 1 cup of diced peeled russet potato.
     Sauté till the potato starts to cook.
     Step 4:  Add 1 cup of pork broth or chicken broth.
     Add 3/4 cup of imported Italian canned crushed tomato.
     Add 1 minced seeded fresh plum tomato.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 pinch of Hungarian Paprika.
     Step 5:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes thick enough to coat the ground meat and potatoes with a thin layer of sauce.  
     *The potatoes do not need to be fully cooked at this point.  The potatoes should be about halfway cooked.  The potatoes will finish cooking when the moussaka is baked.
     Step 6:  Place the moussaka mixture into a shallow single serving size oven proof casserole dish.  Use a spoon to smooth and even the moussaka in the casserole dish.  Be sure to leave about 3/8" of empty space at the top of the casserole dish, so the custard topping can be added. 
     Step 7:  Pace 1 large egg in a mixing bowl.
     Whisk the egg till it is blended.
     Add 3 tablespoons of grated Bulgarian Kashkaval Cheese.
     Add 1/4 cup of goat milk yogurt.  (Greek Yogurt)
     Add 2 tablespoons of milk.
     Add 2 tablespoons of cream.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Pour a thin layer of the custard over the moussaka in the casserole dish.
     Step 8:  Place the moussaka casserole dish on a baking pan.
     Bake in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake the moussaka, till the filling is piping hot and the custard topping becomes a golden color.
     Step 9:  Set the moussaka aside and let it cool to a safe serving temperature.
     Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving plate.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley Sprig.
     Warm, filling and comfortable to eat!  Bulgarian Moussaka is a simple recipe that is very satisfying on a chilly day.

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