Syria, United Arab Emirates – Lamb Moussaka
by Adelina Aida
Moussaka is a very common dish in the Middle East. It is a vegetable and meat layered dish. Thick sauce sometimes white sauce in different areas and tomato sauce is also served in this dish. In this dish two, commonly used vegetables are Potatoes and eggplant. But Eggplant is used frequently. The fried vegetables layered with cooked meat mince in spices and sauce is added then baked. Sometimes the meaty sauce is prepared with tomatoes. We can add any other vegetable to make it more delicious to our taste buds. For nice green color and garnishing of the dish, cilantro, fresh mint, and green chilies are added. This dish is very popular in Egypt and Syria. This dish has also very variations and a combination of other vegetables with meat in the world like in Greece, this dish is also cooked and like by the people.
This dish is served with any sort of bread and rice. Some other side elements are also served like hummus, baba ganoush, etc. This is served hot and cold according to the preference. Mincemeat of usual lamb is cooked in this dish. The tomato sauce is prepared separately or mixed with mince. In this way mince, curry of tomato sauce is prepared and layered with fried brinjal. Potatoes are a very good option for this dish.
In many countries, it is served with snacks and served cold. But in Dubai, Saudia Arabia this is served hot as a main dish. This is a very flavorful dish and has a very thick saucy texture. You can resemble it with LASAGNA. Like the lasagna sheets are layered by adding meat and white sauce. In a similar way, fried brinjal, eggplants, and potatoes are layered by meaty tomato sauce and white sauce made of milk cheese, and cream. In another way, mashed potatoes are also layered with brinjal and meat with sauce.
This dish is basically from SYRIA. It is very popular in BALKANS and MIDDLE EAST.
- Saudia Arab
- Abu Dhabi
In Syrian cuisine, there are two traditional ways of cooking. One is Modern Syria and the Other is Greater Syria. The way of cooking is slightly different. Some people have a huge impact on eating the meat of lamb, cows, goats, etc. Others have dishes made up of vegetables and lentils.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Syrian snacks, MEZZE is served with some bread as the main course dish.
Syrian cuisine has used a wide range of vegetables and beans like :
- Fava beans
- Sesame seeds, etc.
Categories of Syrian cuisine
In the Balkans, North Africa, West Asia there are small dishes that are served as STARTER and APPETIZER. These are known as MEZZE in UAE. Mezze is the snack and starter before the main course dish.
In Asia, mezze is served before the meal so the starter. It is of many kinds like soups, snacks, crisps, some chaat, light, and low-calorie dish. But in other regions like Turkey, Greece, Syria, Lebanon it is also served as a snack or Teatime dish. This is also served as the evening snack.
Sometimes, a large platter of mezze dishes is cooked and served. It is originated by CUISINE OF OTTOMAN EMPIRE. In non-Muslims regions, alcohol is very popular and served with mezze. This dish category is introduced by Turks and the name MEZZE is taken from the Persian word, MAZA which means tasty or delicious.
These dishes are known by other alternative names like :
Popular MEZZE dishes are the following :
- Beyaz Peynir (White cheese)
- Acılı ezme (Walnuts paste with pepper)
- Patlıcan salatası (Brinjal salad)
- Octopus salad
- Raw meatballs and bulgur
- Beyin salatası (brain curry salad)
- yogurt with cucumber and garlic
This dish is popular in many Arab and Middle East cuisines like
- Omani cuisine
- Saudia Arabian cuisine
- Qatari cuisine
- Levantine cuisine
- Kuwaiti cuisine
- Medieval cuisine
- Syrian Cuisine
- Egyptian cuisine
- Yemeni cuisine, etc.
HISTORY OF MOUSSAKA
Moussaka is a dish that is very popular and known ad the Syrian version of Lasagna. The history and origin of the dish are not well recognized but it has many theories regarding the naming and etymology of this dish.
As this is a MEZZE dish so we can conclude this dish may be originated from the CUISINE OF OTTOMAN EMPIRE. This dish has its origin in Syria because it has basic seasonings, main ingredients, and the Syrian method of cooking.
ETYMOLOGY OF MOUSSAKA
There are many versions of the naming of this dish like in English word, it is said that the word Moussaka is taken from the Greek Word, mousakás.
Balkan and Turkish language it is said that the word is taken from Arabic Language word, musaqqa‘a that means ”that which is fed liquid”
Mmuṣaqqa‘a and mùzàkkà means ”pounded or cold”
ELEMENTS OF THE DISH
If you are trying this Syrian dish, you can have different vegetables and meat varieties. Different sauces can also be added to the layering of the dish. You can also change the cooking method of baking and grilling, etc.
The main elements of the dish are :
In authentic Syrian dish, there are two vegetables mainly used in making this dish :
- Brinjal/ eggplant
But the main and commonly used vegetable, 90% of the time is eggplant. Syrian dishes have mainly use of these vegetables in their many dishes like baba ganoush, smoked brinjal, etc. The eggplant or potatoes are thinly sliced into longitudinal directions. Then these slices are fried in oil to make them cook and crispy in texture. These slices are then layered with meat mince and sauces to baking them.
Now there are many varieties that are cooked in the same way as Moussaka. Like mashed potatoes are usually used to layer it with mince curry and sauces. Sometimes other vegetables are also mixed with mashed potatoes in layering.
Instead of using pasta sheets, these fried vegetables are cooked and make it look like lasagna. So by seeing the dish like lasagna. Many varieties are formed in which cheese is added with bechamel sauce, etc.
Other vegetables are also added like :
- Cucumber slices
In this dish, mince is used to layer the vegetable slices. There are a few options that can be traditionally added as the authentic dish like lam mince, etc. sometimes spicy dry mince is added in layering the dish. Otherwise, tomato sauce is added to the mince to make it meaty tomato sauce. This is a very good option to mix the mince with tomato so that meat doesn’t dried out.
Meat traditionally used can be added :
But now other meat options are also added :
- Fish (very rare)
There are options of sauces we have :
- Tomatoes sauce
- Red spicy sauce
- White sauce
Tomato sauce is very commonly used in many other dishes. It is used in this dish to make it moist and good in taste. To make meat mince moist and juicy, mince is added to this sauce. While layering, we have the option to add some vegetables and sauce. We can add sauce according to your taste and the amount of moisture you want.
Meaty red tomato sauce is made.
Garnish this dish with many ingredients you like but the traditional way is :
- Green chilies
- Mint leaves
- Thareed, etc.
- Egg plant = 2
- Potatoes = 2
- Lamb mince = 250 grams
- Onions = 1 large chopped
- Butter = 4 tbsp
- Oil = 4 tbsp
- Salt = 2 tsp
- Red chilies = 1 tbsp
- Turmeric powder = 1 tsp
- Green chilies = 6
- Tomatoes = 4
- Bay leaves = 2
- Parsely = 1 bunch
- Salt = 1 tsp
- Red pepper = 1 tsp
- Curry leaves = 4
Other serving ingredients
- Parsely = 1/2 cup
- Mint leaves = 1/2 cup
- First of all take a large cooking pot and add oil with butter into it. Add chopped onions chunks into the oil on low flame to soften and translucent the onions.
- It took around 5 to 8 minutes until the onions softens, then add lamb mince in onion and high up the flame.
- To lock the moisture of the mince we have to fry the onions and mince on high flame, but not burn the meat.
- Fry it for 10 minutes, now add water of 1 cup with dry spices into the mince and let it cook for 15 minutes so the meat is tendered and juicy at the same time.
- On other hand, thinly slices the egg plants and potatoes.
- Take oil in the deep pan for frying the vegetables. Now add thinly cut vegetables into the oil and set the flame on medium low.
- Slices are thin so it will take around 4 minutes to cook and have a nice golden color on medium flame.
- While meat is cooking, vegetables are fried, we have to prepare our tomatoes sauce.
- Tkae four tomatoes and blanch them by adding it in the boiling water for 8 minutes.
- Now remove the tomatoes from the water and remove its skin.
- Now these half done peeles tomatoes are blend into the mixture for smooth paste.
- Now in a pan add butter with curry leaves and bay leaves.
- After 2 minutes add tomatoes into the butter with curry and bay leaves and add all the dry spices.
- Cook this sauce until the water dried out the thick consistency maintianed.
- Take a heatproof platter, start layering the vegetables, and then meat with tomato sauce.
- Repaet the step until all the material finished.
- Now add cilantro, parsely and mint leaves on the top.
- You can add cheese on the top of moussaka.
- Bake it for 15 minutes and serve!
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