A Modern Moussaka

IMG_4715Yes, I’m marrying the Eastender next month, and, yes, the wedding is still on, but… I’ve fallen in love. Her name is Anna Jones, and it’s her recipes and way of cooking that I have fallen for.

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.IMG_4730

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.

IMG_4732I 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.

IngredientsIMG_4716

  • 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

PreparationIMG_4722

  • 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.
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