I had never heard of Anna Jones until a friend mentioned her on Facebook and then sent me her second book, A Modern Way to Cook, as a gift(!) How lovely is that? It didn’t take me long to also buy the first book, because I didn’t want to miss out on any of her recipes. The books are completely vegetarian, with loads of vegan (or veganisable) recipes. It’s been a while since I was this inspired by a cookbook.
One of the first recipes that caught my eye was one for a vegan moussaka. I love moussaka but I have never found a vegetarian one that’s really wow-ed me. Until now, that is.
As much as I love the original recipe, there were two Greek flavours I missed: cinnamon and oregano, plus I wanted the tomatoes to be a bit saucier. After these and a few other tweaks, I think I can confidently call this my version of Anna Jones’ brilliant modern moussaka. It’s a bit of multi-stage rocket but the finished dish is definitely worth the effort.
I am really excited about the vegan bechamel sauce, something I had never attempted before. The original recipe calls for spelt flour, but that made a sauce that was too thin for my liking. Plain flour worked better for me. I also like how the aubergines are grilled ‘dry’ and sprinkled with just a bit of oil after they’re done. It makes the moussaka lighter and tastier than others I’ve eaten.
One last tip: make sure the moussaka is well-seasoned. I use salt and pepper in all the ‘components’ of the dish, and I feel it needs it.
- garlic oil
- 600 g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 red onions, sliced thinly
- the zest of 1 lemon
- 1 level tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 heaped tsp dried oregano
- pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional but nice)
- 2 aubergines, sliced into 0.5 cm rounds
- 500 g new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled, boiled for 10 minutes (or longer, depending on size) in lightly salted water until just done
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 300 ml unsweetened almond milk
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
- In a large bowl, gently mix the tomatoes with the onions, lemon zest, cinnamon, oregano, chilli flakes and a glug of garlic oil.
- Transfer the tomato mixture to a baking tray, sprinkle over salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes. Take out of the oven and set aside.
- Lower the oven temperature to 200 degrees Celsius. Heat a griddle pan.
- Blend the tomato mixture using a stick blender or food processor.
- When the griddle pan is hot, grill the aubergines in batches until cooked through completely(!) Put cooked slices on a plate and sprinkle with garlic oil, pepper and salt.
- Now make the bechamel sauce: melt the coconut oil in a saucepan, add the flour and cook for a few minutes.
- Gradually add the almond milk, whisking all the time, and cook a bit longer (if necessary) until thickened. I find that this vegan bechamel comes together quicker than a traditional one.
- Using the flat side of a meat tenderiser or the back of a spoon, flatten the cooked potatoes slightly. The skin should split but the potatoes should not fall apart.
- Heat a generous splash of garlic oil in an ovenproof pan (the pan I used had a 26 cm diameter) and fry the potatoes until golden, turning them a few times.
- Take the pan off the heat and spoon over the blended tomato mixture.
- Cover with the aubergines and pour over the bechamel sauce.
- Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.