Monday, May 2, 2011
When I became vegan there were quite a few vegetarian meals that I wanted to be able to reproduce a tasty vegan equivalent of, moussaka was one of them. I only ever tried one recipe as it seemed perfect to me and was always devoured at home or any gathering it was brought along to.
A couple of months ago I had an attempt at making a vegan version. As I wasn't totally impressed with the result, a little tweaking was required to elevate it back to the delicious moussaka it previously had been.
The main element that needed further work was the fetta cheese replacement. On my first attempt I used a variation of Carla's spanakopita filling which I loved in that flaky pie when I made it however it wasn't quite right for this meal. The texture was too creamy which made it difficult to spread evenly and the flavour not quite strong enough. This time I made a batch of Betta Feta from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stephaniak which was simple to put together but required a few days of maturing in the fridge.
The most time consuming part in making this moussaka is the initial cooking of the vegetables, however it is essential to the final result. The vegies really soak up the flavours of the tomato-lentil sauce when they are subjected to this pre-cooking step. I used to fry up the vegie slices in a non-stick frying pan and after some time I switched to using my BBQ to grill the vegies. This brings wonderful smoky flavours to the moussaka plus the added bonus of more cooking space to grill the vegies on which results in less time spent on the task. As my BBQ isn't in great working order I opted to try something different. The potato and zucchini slices were cooked in a non-stick frying pan and the eggplants placed under a griller until browned.
After the lentil-tomato sauce is ready and the vegetables are grilled or fried, it's time to layer the dish. This is the fun part! I start with half of the potatoes on the bottom, plug any gaps with zucchini, followed by a third of the eggplant slices with more zucchini to fill spaces. Half of the sauce gets spread on this layer then half of the tofu feta. This sequence is repeated, then the moussaka is finished with the remaining eggplant and zucchini.
I was so thrilled with how this moussaka turned out and am very happy that I can still make an equally delicious vegan version of a favourite dish. In the past I have referred to my moussaka as a labour of love and indeed it is just that! It's not something I would attempt on a weeknight however it is well worth the effort when you have time up your sleeve on the weekend.
Vegan Moussaka (Adapted from allrecipes.com)
Vegetables for layering
2 medium eggplants, thinly sliced
3 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and set aside for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the potato and zucchini slices under a griller until slightly browned or fry them in a lightly oiled pan until browned and softened.
After the eggplant has rested for 30 minutes, pat dry with paper towels, then grill or fry the eggplant slices.
Tomato Lentil Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato passata
1 x 400g tin lentils
3 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion and garlic until lightly browned. Pour in vinegar and cook until the liquid has reduced. Stir in tomatoes, tin of lentils including the juice, oregano and parsley. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes.
Betta Feta Tofu (Adapted from the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook)
350g of firm tofu, cut into cubes
1 cup water
1/3 cup white miso
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Place tofu cubes in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 5 minutes. Drain well.
Whisk together remaining ingredients, add the drained tofu and let cool at room temperature for 20 minutes. Chill uncovered in the refrigerator until cold to the touch. Cover and chill for at least 2-7 days before serving.
Only half of this batch was used in the moussaka. Remove half of the tofu cubes when you are ready to use them and chop finely.
2 tablespoon dairy free margarine
1/4 cup plain flour
1 1/2 cups soy milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pinch ground nutmeg
In a small saucepan melt the margarine. Stir through the flour then add the soy milk 1/2 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly to ensure that there are no lumps. Bring to a slow boil, whisking constantly until thick and smooth. Season with salt and pepper and add nutmeg.
In a large rectangular casserole dish place a layer of potatoes, zucchini and eggplant, then add half of the tomato-lentil sauce and crumble half of the tofu filling over the top. Repeat this layering then finish with a layer of eggplant and zucchini.
Cover and bake at 190C for 25 minutes. Uncover and pour bechamel sauce over vegetables. Bake, uncovered, for another 25 to 30 minutes.