One of the culinary highlights of my recent trip to Greece was rediscovering the joy of a decent moussaka. It was surprisingly easy to find a vegetarian version, too, which came as some surprise in this far-from-veggie country, although the time of year may have had something to do with this - we were there during Orthodox Lent, when apparently many people give up meat for the month. Given that we still sometimes struggled to find decent vegetarian catering, I can't imagine how hard it would have been at a different time of year.
When I got home, I wanted to recreate some of the sun-soaked Greek flavours in my own kitchen. I've often seen moussaka recipes which include a potato layer, but that wasn't what we found in Greece, so I didn't include it. If you wanted a more hearty dinner, though, you could boil some potatoes (preferably a firm variety), slice them up, and include them in the middle. The herbs really make this dish, so I'd recommend using fresh if you can get them. Also, I'm not one for salting aubergines (eggplant), but you could add that step if you want.
Unfortunately I made this to feed some friends, and it was a busy day, so I didn't have chance to take a picture. It was nice, though. (I'll get a photo next time I make it!)
For the tomato sauce:
1 medium onion
½ green pepper
3 cloves garlic
1tbsp olive oil
1 cup (200g) dried green lentils
1 tin chopped tomatoes
500g tomato passata
For the white sauce:
100g ricotta or other soft cheese
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
1 large courgette (zucchini)
2 large tomatoes
- Finely chop the onion, pepper, and garlic.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and sautee the chopped vegetables until soft.
- Add the lentils, chopped tomato, passata, and herbs to the pan, and simmer over a low heat for a couple of hours, until the lentils are soft (if you use pre-cooked lentils, this stage will be a lot quicker).
- Make the white sauce: melt the butter, add the flour to form a roux, then add the milk (stirring to break up any lumps), and stir until the sauce begins to thicken.
- Mix the soft cheese into the white sauce.
- Slice the aubergine and courgette, and fry for a couple of minutes on each side to soften. You'll probably need to do this in several "rounds", setting aside the cooked vegetables as you go.
- Also slice the tomatoes.
- Layer up the mousaka in a deep casserole dish. Start with half of the lentil mixture in the bottom of the pan, then spread out half the aubergine and half the courgette across the surface. Form the next layer from tomato slices, reserving five large slices for decoration. Add the remaining lentils, then another layer of courgette and aubergine, and top with the white sauce.
- Arrange the reserved tomato slices on top of the white sauce, and sprinkle with parmesan.
- Bake for about an hour at 180°C, until the top has browned and the moussaka is hot throughout.