The Real Greek is a group of restaurants in London serving authentic Greek food. The first restaurant opened in Hoxton and since then the group has changed hands a couple of times and expanded so that there are now seven restaurants in London including one in each of the Westfield Shopping Centres. I was invited to try making moussaka with them at Westfield Stratford and was curious enough to go along!
Our evening started, not with Moussaka but by learning to make taramasalata and a beetroot and orange salad. And, alongside the chef, Alan and his assistant Monika was fellow blogger Sophia from Digital Scullery who kept us all amused by her animated discussions with the (Greek), operations director, Christos of the Real Greek about what was and what was not authentic Greek cookery. She’s much more of an expert than me…and you can read her blog post about the event here. It was, if I am honest, a pretty good Anglicisation of a scene from ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’. And Giulia from Mondo Mulia, a lovely Italian blogger.
The end results were really very good.
Taramasalata, made from scratch was simply smoked cod’s roe, lemon juice, soaked bread and olive oil, beaten to a smooth paste and garnished with some herbs.
The Moussaka was delicious, very rich, deep flavoured meat with fabulous smokey aubergines topped with a bechamel that really didn’t need the cheese you sometimes see added to moussaka. Apparently, Moussaka is a dish that every Greek thinks they know how to cook in the best way. Recipes are handed down through families…and are kept a guarded secret. We were lucky that ‘The Real Greek’ chose to share their recipe with us.
- 1.5 kg Mince The Real Greek uses Beef but I know some recipes swear you should use lamb or a mix of the two
- 500 ml Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 kg Peeled Potatoes mari piper or similar, sliced into 1/2 cm slices
- 1.7 kg Aubergine sliced into 1/2 cm slices and sprinkled with a little salt to degorge
- 15 g Tomato Puree
- 80 ml Red Wine
- 2 g cloves
- 8 g Cinnamon
- 400 g Plum tomatoes tinned or fresh (and skinned. It is better to use tinned if the fresh ones are not very ripe)
- 350 g Red Onions finely chopped
- 15 g Salt
- 5 g Pepper
- 250 g Plain Flour
- 250 g Butter
- 2 l Milk
- 2 Eggs
- In a medium sized saucepan add 50mls of your oil and fry off your red onion on medium heat until soft.
- Then add your beef mince and mix until mince becomes brown. From experience this may be best done in batches so that the meat doesn't stew but is browned quickly
- Then add your tomato puree, tomato, red wine cloves and half the cinnamon and mix well.
- Cook for at least 45 minutes over a very low heat, stirring occassionally
- In a larger saucepan add the rest of your oil and bring to medium to high heat.
- Add the sliced potatoes (in batches if necessary) and cook till golden brown and tender inside
- When this is done place onto a clean cloth or kitchen roll to remove excess oil
- Repeat with the aubergines, frying for around 10 minutes then placing on a clean cloth or kitchen roll to remove the excess oil.
- Make a bechamel by warming the milk till just below simmering
- Melt the butter in a medium pan
- Stir in the flour over a very low heat and cook for a minute or so till golden brown
- Now, gradually add the milk a little at a time, stirring the whole time and reheating till the mixture thickens
- Once all the milk is added continue to cook for 5 minutes or so then remove from the heat
- Line a large casserole or baking dish with the potatoes. followed by a layer of half the aubergine, followed by a layer with all of the mince, followed by a layer of aubergine
- Whisk two eggs into the bechamel which should at this stage be warm.
- Pour the bechamel over the dish and sprinkle the remainder of the cinnamon on top
- Bake for and 45 mins at 160C
I’ve made my own moussaka before and to be honest, this recipe is not so different to the one I use myself. I know Sophia thought the cinnamon was unusual, but, even though I am the Brit it’s something I HAVE always added (perhaps my Greek boyfriend’s mum got me doing that). I’ve never tried the addition of potatoes before, but they DID work very well, as a counter to the rich aubergine and meat mixture. And, because I thought it was ‘Greek’ my own version has always had copious amounts of garlic and oregano. But, I didn’t miss either ingredient.
Afterwards, we went to try some of the dishes at the main restaurant. I was particularly intrigued by the kamaiki ice-cream, which was made with mastic. It’s an ingredient I’ve seen discussed on other blogs. Added to the ice-cream it gave a piney scent and a gooey texture that was a bit like ice-cream toffee. Fabulous. But, I’ve been invited back to do a full review so I will save any further discussion till then.
Disclosure: I attended this event as a guest of The Real Greek restaurant