Moussaka, a light Egyptian version

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Eggplants, in all their varying shapes and sizes, are abundant in the Egyptian market.

Round plump eggplants are known in Arabic as ”bathingan rumi” (Greek eggplants) or “bidingan” in Egypt.

The smaller-sized, elongated eggplants are called “bidingan arous”.

The small elongated eggplants (bidingan arous) (photo: aklat)

Widely popular in Egypt, eggplants are versatile ingredients and can be used for light apperitifs, or substantial oven-bakes.

“Bidingan rumi” is often peeled and sliced in round segments and then fried. It is eaten as a tasty side-dish along with yoghurt.

Fried bidingan rumi (photo: blogspot)

Vinegar and garlic may be added to give the eggplants a pickle-like flavour.  In this case the yogurt may be omitted.

The small elongated eggplants (bidingan arous) are most usually boiled in salted water, split lengthwise and the opening filled with crushed garlic and spices.  They are then sprinkled with vinegar, also providing an instant pickled dish.

Pickled bidingan (photo: khleeg)

However, the most popular eggplant dish is moussaka, often starring in family gatherings and special events.

Moussaka can be cooked with or without minced meat.

Moussaka

Nuts and raisins may be added to raise the dish’s nutritive content.

Moussaka with minced meat

Moussaka is sometimes also cooked with bechamel sauce, but this is more typical of the Greek recipe for this dish.

Moussaka is sometimes also cooked with bechamel sauce (photo: bo7)

Like all deep-coloured vegetables, eggplants are full of nutrients. They include a wide array of minerals including iron and calcium, as well as fibre and vitamins C, K and B6.

The unhealthy part of Moussaka is the large amount of oil used while frying the eggplant. You can avoid this by reducing the amount of oil, and searing the eggplant, rather than frying it.

Searing the eggplants (photo: wordpress)

Here is a simple method of preparing a vegetarian moussaka. Minced meat may be added if desired. The moussaka can also be topped with bechamel.

Ingredients

Ingredients (photo: 3arabawy)

3-4  eggplants

2 medium green peppers

2 medium onions finely diced

2 garlic cloves minced

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 cups tomato puree

1cup sunflower oil

1tsp sugar

salt and pepper to taste

Half a teaspoon cinnamon, optional

A small tomato for garnishing

Preparation

Heat oven to 400 degrees while preparing ingredients and then reduce to 350 degrees.

Peel eggplants and cut into medium-thick round slices.

Place sliced eggplants in a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt.

Cover with an inverted plate weighted with a pan or  heavy jar.

Place the colander in the sink to dispel any excess moisture.

Leave for at least 15-20 minutes, preferably an hour to reduce the eggplants bitterness.

Fry the eggplants and set aside on kitchen paper.

Fry the green pepper and set aside, keeping 3 slices without frying for garnish.

Fry the onions in a tablespoon of oil until soft.

Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir.

Add the tomato puree and let simmer for a moment.

Add sugar, salt and pepper.

Butter an oven dish.

Arrange the eggplant rounds and peppers in layers.

Pour the tomato paste over the eggplants.

Place  tomato and green pepper sliced, on the top as a garnish.

Bake for 45 minutes.