Vegetarian Moussaka

If you have ever seen ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’, you will have heard of Moussaka.  Poor Toula is laughed at by her class mates for eating ‘moose-kaka’ whilst they all enjoy their ‘white wonder bread sandwiches’. If I was Toula, I would have laughed in their faces for having crappy lunches. Moussaka trumps a limp white bread sandwich every day of the week in my books. This Moussaka recipe was adapted from food genius and love of my life Jamie Oliver’s beautiful veggie moussaka. I bought this dish to a dinner with vegetarian friends, and we wolfed it down whilst playing cards against humanity with lots of wine. This recipe puts a veggo spin on a classic Greek dish, yet being packed with brown lentils and chickpeas it still has all the ‘meatiness’ of your typical moussaka. It is time consuming to make, so if you are planning on cooking this meal make sure you have a good 2.5-3 hours up your sleeve. I can promise you the time spent making this moussaka will be well worth it.
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 x springs fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stems and finely chopped
3 x tsp dried oregano
250ml red wine
2 x 400g tins of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
2 x 400g tin brown lentils (drained and rinsed)
4 x bay leaves
1 x 800g tin crushed tomatoes
4 x large eggplants
4-5 x medium potatoes, peeled
750ml low fat milk
5 x black peppercorns
75g unsalted butter or margarine
75g plain flour
1 cup grated low fat cheddar cheese (I used paris creek biodynamic and organic cheddar)
3/4 cup grated parmesan
2 x free range egg yolks
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Drizzle 1-2 tbsp olive oil into a large pot over medium heat, and add the chopped onions and garlic with the chopped rosemary and 1 tsp dried oregano. Fry for around 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft.
Add the wine to deglaze the pan and let it bubble. Next add in the chickpeas, lentils, 2 bay leaves and the crushed tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer until thickened (approx. 1 hour). Make sure you stir this lentil bolognaise every 10 minutes or so to prevent any sticking at the bottom of the pot.
Whilst the lentil bolognaise is left to thicken, slice the eggplants into rounds approximately 1 cm thick. I choose not to peel the eggplants as much of the vitamin and mineral content of vegetables is just under the skin, so peeling removes good nutrition – but its up to you! Place into a colander and sprinkle with salt then leave to draw out excess moisture. Meanwhile, slice the potatoes (peeled or unpeeled, whatever you prefer) into 1cm rounds, then parboil in a large pan of boiling water for approximately 5 minutes, then drain and allow to steam dry. Place the potatoes into a large baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and scatter over another teaspoon of dried oregano. Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until tender and golden brown. Rinse the eggplants on cold water and pat dry with paper towel, then spread onto another large baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, pepper and the last tsp of dried oregano. Place the eggplants into the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through.
Warm the milk with the remaining 2 bay leaves and peppercorns in a medium pan over medium-low heat until the milk is hot. Once hot, strain into a jug, rinse the pan and return to medium heat. Add the butter and stir until melted, then stir in the flour to form the paste which will be the basis of your béchamel sauce. Add the hot milk one splash at a time and stir well after each addition. Once all the milk is added you should have a smooth, creamy and thickened sauce. Add half of the cheddar and parmesan and stir until melted through. Set aside.
Now for the fun part of putting it all together! Spray a large baking dish with oil (the dish needs to be quite deep, at least 10cm), then spread out the cooked potatoes over the bottom of the dish. Spoon half the the lentil bolognaise over the potatoes and then layer the eggplants on top. Spoon the remaining argue over the eggplants. Whisk the egg yolks into the béchamel sauce, and pour over the top of the dish in an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, and then place in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top and bubbling slightly. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving or jump right in and burn your tongue!


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