Thursday, 17 December 2015

Vegetarian Moussaka (that could be vegan)

This recipe is adapted from one by Anna Jones, featured in the Vegetarian Society's recent magazine. Anna has made it vegan - more on this at the end of the recipe* - but this version remains vegetarian and has some short cuts including the all-important sauce. It should take perhaps 1h 20m from start to serving; some ingredients can be prepped while others pre-cook. 

Although this recipe looks quite long, there are no special skills involved - only peeling, slicing, turning and layering, and possibly boiling a kettle for the sauce. The quantities given serve 2 to 3.

A medium-sized griddle pan gives a nice effect for the aubergine and potatoes, but otherwise a frying pan is OK. Also needed is a large roasting tin and a fairly shallow, lightly-oiled oven-proof dish - a round one especially suits the finished moussaka. I used a cast-iron frying pan 4cm deep and diameter about 20cm. Some kitchen paper is useful to blot the tomato slices.

The oven is set at 180C and preps can begin as soon as it's switched on.

Vegetarian Moussaka
2 tbsp oil
250g large tomatoes (3-4)
2 medium red onions
1 small red chilli snipped finely or half tsp chilli flakes/powder
1 lemon, juice and grated zest
salt & pepper
300g small potatoes
1 large aubergine
500ml cheese sauce - ready-made or hot-water packet or granules
2 tbsp snipped fresh parsley

1  Pour the oil into the roasting tin and place in the oven when you switch it on.
       While the oven heats up, slice the tomatoes to 1cm, blot with kitchen paper then 
       halve them. Peel the onions and slice slightly more finely; halve the larger rounds.

2  When the oven is up to temp, tip in the tomatoes and onions. Add the chilli and
       lemon zest, then season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat the ingredients
       well, then roast for 20 mins. Remove from the oven but maintain the temp.
       Meanwhile ...

3  Wash the potatoes and slice to about 1.5cm. Place in a pan with water, bring to the 
       boil and simmer 15 mins, then drain. Meanwhile ...

4  Heat the griddle pan (or frying pan) with a dash of oil. Trim the ends from the
       aubergine then slice to 1.5cm. Cook the slices in batches until browned both sides. 
       Set aside.

5  Griddle or fry the potato slices until browned each side, then arrange in the oven

6  Add the lemon juice to the tomato and onion and mix well, then pile on top of
       the potatoes, spreading evenly. Top with a nice arrangement of the aubergine.

7  Make up the sauce (if not ready-prepped) and pour it over the veg, covering
       all the aubergine. Bake for about 25 mins until bubbling and turning brown.
       Scatter the parsley over the dish just before serving. 

Alternative Ingredients
The main ingredients are basic and don't lend themselves to alternatives, but if the sauce isn't that strong, some crumbled blue cheese or Cheddar could be mixed in. Some thinly sliced mushrooms could be added as a layer between tomatoes and aubergine, and/or two pressed garlic cloves, but otherwise I would keep to the hymn sheet.  

For wine I prefer red with this. A small side salad would go well, and perhaps some crusty bread if potatoes and bread are acceptable to your diners at the same meal. Or you could go mad and serve a couple of nice browned vegetarian sausages at the edge of the plate.

*Anna Jones's Vegan Version
The sauce is the issue. Anna recommends making a bechamel by melting 1.5 tbsp of coconut oil in a pan, adding same quantity of spelt flour, mixing to make a roux, then adding 150ml unsweetened almond milk gradually, whisking all the time to keep it smooth and continuing until it thickens.