Since I went all Greek on you last time with my prasorizo, I thought I’d continue the theme with this simple vegetarian moussaka casserole. Moussaka is one of my favourite foods ever. When we lived in Liverpool we used to go out for Greek food fairly often (if you live near Liverpool, go to Christaki’s! Best place ever), and I would order vegetable moussaka without fail. It’s just so comforting – thick slices of potato and aubergine in a rich tomatoey sauce, topped with an inch-thick layer of creamy, cheesy sauce. Can’t beat it! (especially with a chip or two to dip in the sauce…)
However, I very rarely make vegetable moussaka at home. It’s one of those things (like lasagne!) that always seems like so much hard work – layer upon layer of ingredients that all have to be prepared individually and then carefully stacked.
This vegetable moussaka casserole has all the flavours of my favourite moussaka, but it’s much quicker and easier to make. Instead of boiling the potatoes, grilling the aubergines, and simmering the tomato sauce all separately, I stuck them all in the same pan and let them do their thing, casserole-style. It works perfectly and tastes just as good – all the flavours cook right down together. I also used red lentils as a vegetarian alternative to the ground meat that’s usually found in moussaka.
Once your tomatoey casserole is cooked, you can just top it with a simple béchamel sauce (make sure it’s nice and thick!) and pop it in the oven, and you’re done. Serve a good slab of this vegetable moussaka casserole alongside some pitta bread (or, if you’re less concerned with the Greek theme, some garlic bread would be amazing!) and a big pile of salad. Perfect!
This recipe first appeared on Great British Chefs.
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium aubergine diced
- 250 g potatoes I didn't bother peeling, diced
- 150 g red lentils
- 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 300 ml hot water
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried mint
- Black pepper
- 40 g butter
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 400 ml milk
- Black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 large tomato sliced
- Fresh coriander optional, chopped
Heat the oil in a very large saucepan; add the onion, garlic and diced aubergine. Cook over a fairly low heat for 5 minutes, until the vegetables are nearly soft. Next, add the diced potatoes, lentils, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and hot water, along with the dried herbs and plenty of seasoning. Bring to a simmer, and leave to cook fairly gently for around 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes. It doesn't matter if the potatoes and lentils aren't fully cooked in this time, since they will finish off in the oven, but they should be nearly soft.
While the lentil mixture is simmering, make the white sauce. Melt the butter in a different saucepan, and add the flour. Cook over a very low heat, whisking constantly, for one minute to cook the flour. Then add the milk a little at a time, whisking until smooth each time before adding more. When you've added all of the milk, continue whisking for another couple of minutes, still over a very low heat, until the sauce has come together and thickened up a bit. Season well, and add a good pinch of ground nutmeg.
Heat the oven to 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F).
When the lentils and potatoes are nearly soft, transfer the mixture to a deep baking dish (mine measured 8 x 8 inches), and spread it out into an even layer. Top with the white sauce, and gently spread it out with the back of a spoon to ensure that the whole dish is covered. Top with a few slices of tomato, and bake for around 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the mixture is bubbling. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with fresh coriander if desired.