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Home Cook: Nick Mitzevich, art gallery director

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Art Gallery of South Australia director Nick Mitzevich learned to cook by watching his Greek grandmother. He shares one of her recipes with InDaily and offers a peek into his own kitchen.

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It is six years in July since Nick Mitzevich took over the running of the Art Gallery of South Australia, and he has worked hard to bring fresh energy to the institution.

He grew up on a farm in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, gaining degrees in fine arts and education at the University of Newcastle. He worked as a university lecturer, high school teacher, art dealer and in arts administration before finding his way into galleries.

Mitzevich now lives with his partner in the Adelaide Hills, where he has a productive kitchen garden. He has been known to joke that if he wasn’t an art gallery director, he’d be a gardener.

Here, he gives some insight into what happens in his kitchen at home and shares a favourite moussaka recipe.

In the kitchen I am …
Always eating everything!

The fridge is nearly empty – what do you cook for dinner?
My freezer is full of home-cooked meals for times like this.

Most useful cooking tool?
Time, in large quantities – and patience!

Three essential grocery items?
Fresh herbs from the garden, bay leaves from my bay tree and, in season, black figs from my fig tree.

How did you learn to cook?
Sitting on the kitchen bench next to my Greek grandmother for many, many years. Watching her work her magic, from the simplest salad to the most complex pastries.

Favourite restaurant?
Peel Street. I love the fusion of Middle Eastern, Greek and Asian flavours.

Favourite recipe?
My grandmother’s moussaka. My grandmother (Yiayia) lined the base of the dish with sliced potatoes to absorb the juices – super delicious.

My Grandmother’s recipe for Moussaka

Ingredients

2kg eggplant, cut into 1cm slices
120ml olive oil
1 onion, grated
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
500g lean ground beef or veal (minced)
450ml peeled tomatoes or canned tomatoes
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon sugar
Lots of salt and pepper
1 egg white, lightly beaten
5 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Butter for greasing
5 tablespoons breadcrumbs
100g of your favourite hard cheese, grated
5 tablespoons cream
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
750ml white sauce*
Handful of mushrooms, sliced
4 large potatoes

Method

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and let them drain for an hour. Rinse, squeeze out the excess water and pat dry. Heat half the oil in a frying pan, and cook the eggplant slices over a medium heat, turning occasionally, until lightly browned on both sides, then drain on paper towels.

Heat the remaining oil and add the onion and garlic and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Increase the heat to medium and add the ground beef or veal and cook for about 10 minutes until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes, allspice and sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and let cool, then fold in the egg white and parsley.

Cook potatoes in boiling water for 8 minutes or until just tender. Drain well, cool and slice.

Heat the oven to 200C. Grease an oven-proof dish with butter and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Cover the base of the dish with a layer of potato slices then half the eggplant slices, overlapping them slightly. Spread half the meat mixture on top and sprinkle with half the grated hard cheese and 2 tablespoons of the remaining breadcrumbs. Cover with the remaining eggplant slices, spread the remaining meat mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs, and add the layer of mushrooms.

Stir the cream and egg yolks into the white sauce (see method below) and spread it evenly over the surface of the dish.

Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

* To make a basic white sauce, melt 100g chopped butter in a saucepan, add ½ cup plain flour and stir until grainy. Remove from heat and gradually stir in 1 litre milk until smooth. Return pan to heat and stir until thick. Remove from heat. Season.

Serves 6

Nick Mitzevich is a regular contributor to InDaily’s opinion section.

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