Vegetable moussaka

Posted on: 02 October 2012 by Gareth Hargreaves

To mark Vegetarian Awareness Month, 50connect dips into Food & Drink with a divine meat-free vegetable moussaka

Vegetable MoussakaVegetable moussaka may not be top of your list when you're thinking what to cook for dinner, but we think we have enough to change your mind. The 'vegetarian option' has evolved greatly since the much maligned days of lentil bakes and tofu kebabs. Here, 50connect takes a look at the Greek classic moussaka .... without meat!

We've all heard the stories in the media about how eating lots of red meat can lead both to heart disease and the development of bowel cancers, so this presents the perfect opportunity to try something delicious and new and help your health as well.

Serves 4

Preheat oven to 180 degree C

Ingredients

  • 4 aubergines
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, peeled and sliced
  • 1 green pepper, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped oregano or 2 tsp of dried
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped thyme or 2 tsp of dried
  • 1 tbsp of freshly chopped parsley or 2 tsp of dried

For The Béchamel Sauce

  • 25g of butter
  • 1 tbsp of plain flour
  • 400ml of milk
  • 125g of strong cheddar cheese, grated
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp of English mustard powder or mustard

Optional 

1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

1) Slice the aubergines into 2cm-thick rings. Sprinkle with salt, place in a colander and cover with kitchen towel. Put a heavy scale weight on the aubergines and leave to drain for half an hour to get rid of the bitter juices.

2) Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large sauce pan. Once hot, add the onion and fry until the flesh goes translucent.  Then add the tomatoes, pepper and garlic and continue to fry for 5 minutes.  Add the tin of tomatoes and the fresh herbs, bring up to the boil, then leave to simmer so that it thickens, whilst you get on with the béchamel sauce. 

3) If you have a microwave, put the milk in a jug and heat it until it is just near to boiling point.  This isn't essential but it does mean less elbow grease when it comes to thickening the sauce.

4) Put a small milk pan over a medium heat. Once hot, add the butter and gently melt.  As soon as it's melted add 1 tbsp of plain flour and whisk for 2-3 minutes until you have a paste.  The thickness of this paste will determine the thickness of the sauce so if you think it is a little runny, add some more flour, and vice versa but NOTE, this is the only point that you can add more butter and flour.  As soon as the milk goes in, that's it!

5) Once you have a paste that resembles pureed garlic, pour in a little of the warmed milk and whisk thoroughly.  Keep on whisking as you gradually add the rest of the milk.  Keep on whisking until the sauce thickens.  This can take anywhere between 5-20 minutes depending on the heat of the milk before it went in the pan.  Do not worry if the sauce doesn't look like it's thickening, it will do eventually.

6) As soon as you have the sauce, season well with salt and pepper, add the nutmeg and add two thirds of the grated cheese. Finish off by adding the Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder. 

7) Now, compile the dish! Layer a third of the aubergines in the bottom of a casserole dish and season well.  Top with half the tomato sauce. Then add another layer of aubergines, the rest of the tomato sauce and finish with a layer of aubergines. Top with the béchamel sauce, and sprinkle the remaining grated cheese on top.

8) Place in the oven for 1 hour until cooked through.

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