During my August trip to Dusseldorf (for work), Pete was keen to find new ways to use some of the beautiful courgettes we’ve been growing in the garden. When he told me of about the moussaka-like dish he made one night (using courgettes instead of aubergine) I insisted he make it again as soon as I got home! We both enjoyed it so much he’s made it a number of times since then.
The recipe has varied each time he’s made it. Apart from the first time, when he used beef, he uses lamb mince – more in keeping with a traditional moussaka. The ratios of ragu, courgette and bechamel have changed too. The first time he made it, he fried the courgettes briefly before layering them into the dish but he no longer does this. And the last time he made it, he skipped the bechamel, and it was still delicious! Don’t be scared to adapt this recipe!
You can, of course, substitute your preferred recipe and methods for the lamb ragu. Pete’s very simple one, below, is easy and delicious but any thick, rich ragu recipe would work.
Pete's "Courgette 'Saka"
For the ragu:
- 500 g lamb mince
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 Oxo cube
- 3-4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- pinch flour (optional)
- olive oil (for frying)
For the bechamel:
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 200 ml milk
For the courgette layer:
- 500 g courgette
- small handful grated cheese (optional)
To make the ragu:
Brown the mince in a little olive oil (you won't need much as lamb mince releases its own fat).
Add the garlic and Oxo cube and stir well.
Stir in the flour to thicken (if using).
Add the tomatoes.
Bring up to a simmer and leave to thicken for 20-30 minutes (you can get away with 10 minutes if you're in a rush, as long as the mince was browned off properly).
To prepare the courgettes:
Slice the courgette, lengthwise or crosswise, as preferred (seed first if particularly large).
To make the bechamel:
Once the mince is ready, start the bechamel.
Melt the butter.
Mix in the flour with a whisk until it becomes a coherent paste.
Meat the milk (a quick blast in the microwave works well).
Add the milk to the flour butter paste gradually, whisking continuously. Don't worry if it seems to separate when the milk first goes in; if you keep whisking it comes together again.
In an oven dish, use half the mince to create the first later.
Cover with half the courgette slices, spread out over the mince and half the bechamel. Repeat.
Sprinkle grated cheese over top, if desired.
Pop dish into a medium oven (160-180C) for approximately half an hour (exact cooking time will depend on how thick your courgette slices were, as these need to cook through).