John’s vegetarian mousaka

A few weeks ago we went to visit friends of ours in Rooiels for a Cypriot feast. We had the most amazing weekend. We found a massive star fish and all manner of sea life in the rock pools and we ate ourselves silly.

John made a veg moussaka and I made bourekia. The pictures are thanks to Dean as I missed a lot of the laborious preparations because I was having an afternoon nap to recover from making the bourekia. There were other accompaniments, like chickpea soup and a massive salad, but I didn’t get to document everything. The tastes reminded me of sunny lunches in Cyprus followed by long sweaty siestas.

This is the recipe he used to serve 12 (word for word from his recipe):

Vegetables:

  • 1kg Potatoes
  • 5-6 Large Egg Plant
  • 500g zucchini
  • Some grated cheese
  • 1tsp nutmeg

For the cream:

  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1lt milk (and a bit)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 200g grated cheese
  • 1tsp nutmeg

For the veggie mince sauce:

  • 500g black or brown lentils
  • Knob of butter and a little oil for frying
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 veggie stock cube
  • 1 large glass white wine
  • Handful parsley finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water as required

Prepare the vegetables:

Remove the stalk and slice the egg plants crossways into 1cm pieces. Layout on a plate and cover with salt to draw out the excess water – leave for about half an hour. Peel the potatoes and slice into 1cm pieces and slice the zucchini lengthways into 6mm slices. Now you need to fry all the veggies until golden brown. The quickest way is to deep fry in hot oil alternatively shallow fry in batches. Wipe away the salty water on the surface of the eggplants with clean kitchen towel before frying and make sure the potatoes are cooked through. Set aside.

Preparation for the veggie mince sauce:

Add butter and oil to a pot and gently fry the onions to get soft, add the garlic and cook for a further few minutes before adding the lentils. Stir lentils for a couple of minutes to get coated with the oil then add a tin of chopped tomatoes. Boil the kettle and fill a mug of hot water with the stock cube and tomato puree. Mix well and add to lentil mixture along with the white wine, top up with water so there is enough liquid to cover. Add the parsley and remaining spices and simmer over a low heat with lid on for about an hour. Season to taste. You may need to add more water as the lentils cook and absorb the moisture so check back often to stir and top up if necessary. The finished mixture shouldn’t be to watery so don’t add too much especially towards the end of cooking. Remove cinnamon sticks and cloves (if you can find them).

Assemble the dish then make the cream sauce:

You will need a large baking dish approx. 34cm x 24cm x 8cm. Lightly grease bottom and sides then start with a layer of potatoes sprinkle with some cheese and nutmeg. Add a layer of eggplants then the zucchini. Cover with the thick lentil  sauce and press down firmly with a spoon. Repeat with alternative layers of the remaining potatoes, eggplant and zucchini.

To make the cream, with a wooden spoon mix the oil and flour in a large pot then slowly add warm milk and mix with an egg whisk to avoid lumps. Continue to add the milk until you have a hot sauce, the consistency of thick cream. Season well and stir in half of the cheese then take off the heat and quickly whisk in the egg yolks. When combined, pour the sauce into the tray covering the vegetables well. Grate the remaining cheese and spinkle some nutmeg.

Cook in a preheated oven at 200C for approx. 45 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.

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