Monday, July 2, 2012
When I have time on my hands and I'm in the mood for eating it, I really do love making moussaka. It takes a while to put together the way that I am accustomed to making it, yet I don't want to change the process as I have found that shortcuts are detrimental to it's overall taste. Last year I posted my initial vegan moussaka recipe which I was quite happy with at the time. This recipe has now fallen into the category of a few other recipes of mine where it has evolved into something different so I figured it was time for an update.
The main differences between my latest version and the earlier recipe are the bechamel sauce and I usually don't bother with a feta cheese replacement crumbled into the layers as it is flavoursome enough without it. I made a batch of Johanna's baked almond feta last week so I did add this to one of the layers only because I had it on hand. Another area where I have always fluctuated in the making of this meal is the method of precooking the vegetables. It used to work best with a BBQ hot plate and grill but ours hasn't been in working order for years so I have found that the next best thing to use is the grill function in my oven (with a watchful eye). Precooking the vegetables is the most time consuming part of the moussaka preparation and I believe this is a crucial step as it allows the potatoes and zucchini to soak up the flavours of the sauce whilst baking and gives the eggplant a wonderful smoky flavour.
The bechamel replacement that has become my standard is adapted from the moussaka recipe in Veganomicon. I wasn't attracted to the entire moussaka recipe as it doesn't contain enough eggplant and there is too much potato for my liking although I was very interested in the pine nut crema that is used in the topping. The greatest part about this crema is all of the ingredients are whizzed up in a blender so there is no need to fuss over the stove worrying about getting lumps in your sauce. After I tried out the crema, I made some changes as the standard tub of silken tofu I buy is 300g and the recipe calls for 450g. Silken tofu is one of those things that can linger in my fridge if it's not used immediately so I made some changes to the recipe after I grew tired of wasting leftover tofu. I found that 300g of tofu with half a cup of soy milk and some extra cornflour does just as good a job.
Another wonderful thing about moussaka is that it makes a large quantity and the leftovers taste fantastic. It's a fantastic dish to take along to gatherings as it can be baked ahead of time and reheated when required.
Moussaka with tomato lentil sauce and pine nut crema (Crema adapted from Veganomicon)
Olive oil spray
1kg eggplant, sliced into 1-2cm thick pieces
500g potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
500g zucchini, sliced thinly
150g baked almond feta, crumbled (optional)
Tomato lentil sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ cups cooked brown lentils or use a 400g tin, drained and rinsed
700ml jar tomato passata
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ cup water
Pine nut/cashew crema
½ cup pine nuts or raw unsalted cashews
300g silken tofu, drained
½ cup soy milk
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons cornflour
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and set aside for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, spray the potato and zucchini slices slightly with olive oil and cook under a griller until slightly browned on both sides. Alternatively, the slices can be fried them in a lightly oiled pan or baked in the oven on tray lined with baking paper until browned on both sides.
After the eggplant has rested for 30 minutes, place the slices in a colander and rinse well. Pat dry with a tea towel or paper towel and grill, fry or bake the eggplant slices until browned on both sides.
Heat the olive oil in a deep sided frying pan over medium heat and cook the onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir through the garlic for a minute then add the chilli flakes (if using), oregano, lentils, passata and salt. Rinse out the passata jar with the water and add this to the saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.
Place the pine nuts or cashews, tofu, soy milk, garlic, cornflour, lemon juice, salt and nutmeg in a blender or food processor and blend until it is completely smooth and no lumps remain.
Preheat the oven to 200C. In a 30cm x 20cm casserole dish, spread out about a quarter of the tomato lentil sauce. Place a third of the eggplant, zucchini and potato slices on top, followed by another quarter of the tomato lentil sauce. Crumble the baked almond feta on top, if using. Repeat the vegetable and sauce layering two more times, then pour the contents of the blender over the top as evenly as possible. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, the top should be firm and starting to brown.