Vegetarian Moussaka

JUST about everybody loves lasagne, but we often overlook its Greek cousin, moussaka.

I like the less-stodgy appeal of the pasta-free moussaka, and it lends itself rather well to a vegetarian version.

The traditional recipes use minced lamb or beef for the protein factor, but lentils can be easily substituted in the dish.

In fact, this is a great way to introduce legumes (which are so good for you) to your diet, or the diet of a picky family. If you don’t tell them, it’s quite likely they won’t even know that the meat is missing.

One of the challenges of following a vegetarian lifestyle is getting enough protein into the diet; lentils, with their nutty flavour, are an easy and tasty way to do it.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that vegetarianism involves just cutting out meat; it must be replaced with another form of protein or you will quickly % become deficient in necessary nutrients.

Legumes provide protein, fibre, iron and taste good, too.

If you have the time, soak dried lentils overnight before cooking the day you need them. If you are pushed for time, tinned lentils provide a shortcut.

Like lasagne, moussaka is a little time-consuming to make but unlike the Italian dish, you don’t have to handle fiddly boiled sheets of pasta (and I don’t care what you say, the instant stuff doesn’t give the right texture).

You can double the quantities for this dish, make two at the same time, and freeze one for use at a further date.

you will need:

1-3 tblspn olive oil

2 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1 medium-large eggplant, sliced 5mm thick

2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced

1 white onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 x 400g can good-quality peeled tomatoes, chopped

1 x 400g can lentils, drained, liquid reserved

2 tspn fresh oregano leaves, chopped OR 1 tspn dried

2 tblspn chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste

250g feta cheese, crumbled

1½ tblspn butter

2 tblspn plain flour

300ml milk

black pepper to taste

pinch ground nutmeg

1 egg, lightly beaten

¼ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

what you do:

Preheat oven to 190°C.

Heat one tablespoon oil in a frypan over medium-high heat. Lightly brown potato; remove and set aside. Repeat with eggplant and zucchini slices, adding more oil if necessary as eggplant will soak it up.

Saute onion and garlic until soft, stirring constantly. Stir in tomatoes, lentils, half the reserved liquid from the lentils, oregano and parsley. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes.

Layer one third of the sauteed vegetable slices (potato, eggplant, zucchini) and feta in an ovenproof casserole dish. Pour half the tomato mixture over vegetables; % repeat layering, finishing with a layer of vegetable slices.

Cover and bake at 190°C for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan; stir in flour to form a roux and cook for a minute over a low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and whisk in the milk. Return to heat and bring to a slow boil, whisking constantly until thick and smooth. Add nutmeg and season to taste Remove from heat, cool for five minutes, and stir in beaten egg and cheese.

Pour bechamel sauce over vegetables and bake, uncovered, for another 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with a mixed salad.

Serves 6.

 se it within three months for best results.



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