The fragrant simmering meat sauce, creamy béchamel, savoury potatoes and roasted eggplant layers all culminate into a wonderful warming dish perfect for nights that the rooftops are frosted and the first smudges of woodsmoke are wafting from chimneys across a windless, moonlit Manawatu (or Maniototo) sky.. If savoury comfort food has a defining dish, moussaka would certainly be in the running.
While Greece is generally credited with 'inventing' moussaka, variations on the theme can also be found in the cuisines of Turkey, where green pepper is a popular inclusion, as well as Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia, where it is made with pork and a yoghurt-type topping. I'd encourage anyone who makes this dish to try it with lamb. I find that it's flavour blends perfectly with the oregano, cinnamon and nutmeg. I also embellish the béchamel a bit, adding a bay leaf, garlic and a bit of onion (removed before use) for a litle more complexity. And since we're taking liberties, a little lemon brightens up the potato layer.
And nothing complements this dish like a glass of your favourite red. I highly recommend the Cantina Dorgali Cannonau (gorgeous Sardegnian Grenache) that I decanted an hour before dinner.