In endless search for Comfort Food

…the makings of the Lamb Lentil Moussaka!

Wow, it has been a long time since we decided to share some of our special recipes, but given that our Heron House family is on hard lockdown again, we thought why not share the love?!?

Needless to say, with the pandemic affecting travel into and in Vietnam, we have found our special corner of the rice fields particularly quiet these days but not boring in the slightest. As we wait to start welcoming visitors again and being able to hold some special events, we thought, why not work on further beautifying our amazing colonial villa with some nice new touches and better yet, work on how to best feed our guests in the future.

New recipes have ranged from 48 hour slow cooked beef short ribs, to learning to make fresh ravioli, to experimenting with Japanese momafuka pork belly, to trying to reinvent the classic Com Ga (Hoi An chicken rice), but in the end for Loic at least his heart, stomach, and mind always wander off to Greece and its incredible cuisine so the time came to tackle a Lamb and Lentil Moussaka after months of elbowing by his hungry friends.

We will share more details on our projects, recipes, and rapidly growing family soon, but for now we just wanted to share a few ideas on how to make this truly incredible dish.

Good luck and bon appetit!

(salting aubergines, the most mundane time consuming process of the whole dish)
(the layering begins)
(Progress)
(at last the ‘healthy’ layer has been applied)
(The final result – in appetizer form – beautiful, with a crunch on the top cheese, loads of creaminess in the bechamel, and the lentils have stayed moist and still kept their shine)

The Lamb & Lentil Moussaka Recipe

(via thermomix, anova sous vide, and good old fashion’d sweat work 😉
Yields about 8 full portions

Ingredients:

  • 300 grams green or red lentils
  • 100 grams parmigiano or pecorino cheese (grated finely preferable)
  • 50-60 grams kafalograviera (or another salty cave aged cheese will suffice)
  • 140 grams crumbled feta
  • 1 kilo (minimum) aubergines
  • Good Olive oil (lots 😉
  • 250-300 grams white onions
  • 1 green or red bell pepper
  • 1x large carrot
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 420 grams canned tomatoes (use all contents)
  • 250-300 grams red wine (up to 1 bottle in truth depending on cooking method and chef’s thirst)
  • 3-5 tbls of oregano
  • 3-5 tbs of thyme
  • 2x whole cinnamon sticks
  • salt to taste
  • Ground pepper to preference
  • 40 grams butter
  • 500 grams fresh milk
  • 40 grams self raising flour
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1 whole nutmeg

Instructions: (more or less in order of tediousness)

For the Lamb:  600-800 grams of Lamb cuttings will work

  • remove cuttings, wash thoroughly, dry, and rub lightly with salt, pepper, and oregano.  Leave it to rest uncovered in refrigerator for around 24 hours
  • After airing the lamb, mix with 1 can of tomato paste, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, dry spices (thyme & oregano to taste for me) and 3 crushed pieces of garlic and then place ingredients in a covered bowl for 4 hours to marinade. (can also add 1 stick of cinnamon at this stage if you want to better flavour the tomato paste)
  • After 4 hours marinade is finished, place contents in plastic bag along with a minimum of 20 grams of virgin olive oil, seal it up, and heat up your sous vide machine to 57.5C/136F.
  • Place vacuum sealed lamb (or use water displacement method) into the bath for 2 – 4 hours
  • Remove lamb and cool
  • Once cool, remove prime lamb meat (that is stupidly tasty at this point) from the excess fat, oil, tomato paste, and gristle.
  • For lamb meat, cut all prime meat into mix of minced and small chunks. Cover and leave to the side to be used for later.
  • SAVE excess fat, oil, tomato paste, and gristle to prepare your moussaka sauce

For the Aubergines: (most annoying step by far) take 1 kilo  or more depending on preference for the layering

  • Wash all aubergines but leave skin on
  • Cut aubergines into even discs
  • lay out all aubergine in an even layer and salt them –  leave to rest for 45+ minutes
  • dry all of them with towel, flip to other side and repeat
  • Once all aubergine slices have been salted on both sides, rinse thoroughly under cold water in sink and leave to dry
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
  • Whisk together virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried rosemary and proceed to dip all pieces into the oil mixture
  • On an oven tray place baking paper and lay out oiled aubergine slices without overlapping them
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on thickness chosen) until tender but not at all crispy.
  • Cool and set aside for use later

Lentils: 300 grams will do it

  • Place 300 grams dried lentils into 750 grams minimum of room temperature water
  • leave to rest for 2 hours
  • Drain excess water and let lentils air dry until ready

The Sauce:

  • Place olive oil, carrot, garlic, white onion, bell pepper, into thermomix –>  set to 5 seconds at speed 5 to properly mince
    • If no thermomix in sight can use a food processor
  • Add canned tomatoes and from sous vide bag, the excess lamb fat, oil, tomato paste, and gristle –> set to 8 seconds at speed 5
  • Add red wine to taste, salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and both cinnamon sticks then set thermomix to 30 minutes at varoma, reverse, speed 1 (please note that while the sauce is reducing and solidifying it may be necessary to add more time & more wine to taste but ensure that lamb fat has begun to liquefy during process)
    • If not using a thermomix place all items into large saucepot and heat up gradually to boiling, then reduce heat to a simmer and continually stir for about 1 hour minimum
  • Lastly, add dried lentils into the thermomix pot and set to 18 minutes at 100 degrees celcius, reverse, speed 2 (Note: It is very important that the lentils do not break or dry out, nor that they are too tough at their center so if your pot is full than give it a hard stir around to ensure everything is evenly cooked and add more red wine to the sauce if you are afraid it may be a tad dry) 
    • If adding lentils to conventional pot, it is best to add lentils to sauce and continually stir for about 20-30 minutes depending on liquid levels and consistency desired.  Keep adding wine as needed and dont let the chef go dry either while he is over the heat

Final Assembly:

  • Take large casserole dish (deep if possible) and brush lightly with olive oil to avoid sticking
  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius
  • Add saved lamb into the lentil tomato mix and stir thoroughly until well mixed
  • Pour lentil lamb moussaka mix in the bottom of the casserole dish and layer evenly with a rubber spatula
  • Evenly start placing prepped aubergine slices and make a full 1-2 layers of aubergines on top of lentil mix (note, some kitchens like the aubergines between 2 separate layers of lentils and some cooks just on the top of the mix…either way, with the lentils I rather like the aubergine layer on top and with 2-3 individual layers)
  • Now, start covering the aubergine layer with crumbled feta
  • Next, the Bechamel sauce is needed:
    •  Throw butter, milk, flour, egg(s), and a little ground pepper to taste into thermomix and cook for 8 minutes at 90 degrees C speed 4
    • Add 80 grams parmigiano, grated nutmeg and salt to taste in thermomix and mix for 10 seconds  at speed 4
    • Taste and add more nutmeg, salt, pepper, and some oregano to taste if you like then mix again for 5 seconds at speed 4
      • If not using thermomix, classic process in a saucepot should take about 30 minutes and heavy use of the wrist 😉
  • Next evenly pour the bechamel over the feta layer and ensure that it is evenly distributed
  • Sprinkle remaining parmigiano, crumbled kefalograviera, and breadcrumbs over the top of the bechamel
  • Then grate a little extra nutmeg over the top (along with a dusting of oregano if desired)
  • Throw the now full casserole into the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes until top of moussaka is bubbling and the top layer of cheese starts to bubble evenly
  • Remove from oven, let stand two minutes, undo ones belt, and dive in!

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