Moussaka and Strawberry Pavlova

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Today marks the end of the Mother’s Day lunch with a twist. Now that you’ve all seen what my guests brought, you may be wondering what dish I decided to go with. It was so difficult to narrow my choices down, I even went to friends and family and asked them which dish was their favourite of Mom’s. That didn’t quite help my plight, as each person gave me a different dish they loved. At the end, I decided to go with something I could make beforehand and that packed a punch with flavours.

Acknowledgement: Images were taken by Janine Shepard from Jinx photography

With my mind finally settled, the dishes I brought to the table were strawberry pavlova and Moussaka (of which I have this bad habit of pronouncing “mouse-ka-ka”). Although I am not Greek, the flavours of the Moussaka dish really resonated with the punchy flavourful dishes my Mom enjoyed and made. To break the flavourful, garlic infused dish, I thought I would offer up strawberry pavlova. It’s light and not sickly sweet; in my mind it was a perfect dessert to end with, especially after a buffet of savoury delights.
I would sincerely recommend you make these dishes the day before. The moussaka has many elements and the pavlova takes some time to bake and rest; so make sure you have time on your hands. The good news is the processes for both dishes get easier the more you make them. Just one word of advice; taste, taste, taste! You really need to get that punch of garlic, sweet tomoato and saltiness flavour in the moussaka for it to be a triumph. So if you’re eager to cook up a storm; these dishes will make sure you work a bit for your meal. It is however, certainly rewarding when it comes to eating and great to share with a big crowd.
  

Mousaka

Ingredients:
2 – 3 Large potatoes, peeled
800g Beef / Lamb mince
1 – 2 Large aubergines
3 tsp Garlic, crushed
½ – 1 tsp Ground cinnamon
1 Tbs Sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Can Chopped tomatoes
50ml Tomato paste
1 Tbs All Gold tomato sauce
1 – 2 Onions, roughly chopped
2 tsp Italian herbs
2 tsp Garlic and Herbs
1 tsp Garlic salt
125ml water
1 – 2 Tsb Oil (to fry)
Spray and cook
Topping
1 Litre Milk
2 – 3 heaped tsp Cornstarch, with 3 Tbs of water
¼ tsp English mustard
Salt, pepper and Aromat (optional) to taste
1 Block of grated cheddar cheese
1 Block of Greek Feta cheese
Instructions:
Mousaka is made up of layers, the first layer the potatoes, the second layer is the mince mixture, the next layer is the aubergines and the final layer is the cheese sauce.
The potato layer
1. Peel potatoes, thinly slice and either lightly fry or for a healthier option bake in the oven until golden brown and cooked through.
2. Once potatoes are cooked, drain the oil off the potatoes and then layer at the bottom of a square lasagne dish.
The mince layer
3. Roughly chop onions, and fry in a large pot on a medium heat, until translucent.
4. Once the onion is translucent, add the garlic.
5. Soon after the garlic, add the mince. Leave the mince to fry and brown on one side.
6. Once the mince is almost cooked through, add the canned tomato, tomato paste, water and All Gold tomato sauce.
7.   Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon, sugar, garlic salt and herbs.
8. Leave the mince to simmer on a medium to low heat, so half of the liquid has evaporated. Note: you don’t want the mixture to be sloppy, but you do want it to be a bit juicy.
9. Taste the mixture continuously to make to your ‘salt’ preference.
10. Once the mixture is cooked, spread on top of the potatoes in the square lasagne dish.
The aubergine layer
11. Slice the aubergines into rounds.
12. Lightly fry or for a healthier option, cover the slices in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in the oven until the aubergine slices are soft.
13. Once the aubergine slices are cooked through, layer over the mince mixture in the lasagne dish.
The cheese sauce layer
15. In a sauce pan, pour the milk, mustard, and salt and pepper; heat the mixture on a medium to high heat while continuously stirring.
16. When the milk starts forming little bubbles on the top, or is starting to boil, remove from the heat and add the cornstarch (which should be mixed with a few drops of water to make a liquid).
17. Continue stirring, until mixture thickens. You want it to be quite stiff; the sauce should not pour off the spoon, it should drop in smooth blobs.
18. Lower the heat, add 1 – 2 handfuls of the grated cheese into the sauce. Stir over the heat until the cheese has melted in and mixed thoroughly.
19. Pour the thick mixture over the aubergines in the lasagne dish.
20. Sprinkle cheddar cheese and feta over the cheese sauce in the lasagne dish.  
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Bake the Mousaka dish in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Strawberry Pavlova

Ingredients:
4 Large egg whites, room temperature
1 Cup castor sugar
1 tsp White vinegar
½ Tbsp Cornstarch
½ tsp Vanilla essence
Topping ingredients:
250ml Whipping cream
1 Punnet strawberries
Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 140 degrees.
2. Using an electric beater, beat the egg whites in a metal bowl until they form soft peaks.
3. Once at a soft peak stage, start gradually adding the sugar into the egg whites while still continuously beating the eggs. (do not just clump all the sugar in the bowl at once).
4. Your egg whites will become glossy and form stiff peaks.
5. Add the cornstarch and vinegar and fold in gently.
6. Add the vanilla essence and fold gently.
7. Use a large pan, layer baking paper on the base and spread the meringue in a circular shape. Make sure the edges are higher and the middle has a bit of dip in the middle.
8. Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
9. Once the time is up, open the oven door ajar for the meringue to slowly cool it down. Note: as the meringue cools down it will crack.
10. Once the meringue is room temperature, whip the cream until stiff peak stage and spread on top of the pavlova.
11. Cut strawberries and sprinkle on the top.