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Aubergine Moussaka (Veg/Ve)

This is a great vegetarian moussaka recipe that has a proper 'more-ish' flavour to it. I often serve this when I have friends over, but I rustle is up as a treat for myself during the week.

The main body of the moussaka doesn't have any potato in it - which means you have two topping options i) a potato topping ii) a yoghurt topping. I recommend going with a potato topping if you are looking for a plant-based recipe, and a yoghurt topping if you are cooking for a vegetarian. Both are good.

In the menu list, I have paired the Aubergine Moussaka with a beef casserole, but it works really well with roast lamb. Everyone will love this Moussaka regardless!

Ingredients for the filling:

4 oz (50g) red lentils

4 fl oz water (110ml)

1 medium aubergine, cut into small cubes (about 1cm square)

4 tablespoons of olive oil

4 oz red pepper (110g), chopped into small cubes (about 1cm square)

1 large clove garlic, crushed

4 tablespoons of red wine or dry cider

1 tablespoon of tomato puree

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 dessert spoon of chopped parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions to make the filling:

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4, 350F, 180C.

Use a 2 pint (1.2 litre souffle dish) or an n oven proof dish of about 15cm x 25cm)

Cook the lentils first. Place the lentils in a saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the lentils are soft and cooked through. Keep checking in case you need to add more water. Don't add any salt. It takes about 20 minutes to cook the lentils. Drain any excess water, and keep on the side.

Then cook the remaining ingredients. In a large sauteuse pan, add the olive oil, and bring to a low heat. Add the onions, peppers and the aubergines together in the pan, until the onions are softened. Turn up the heat, and sauté the mixture until the aubergine skins are soft and break with a fork easily, but the vegetables are not mushy. This takes about 20 minutes. You may need to add a little extra olive oil if it gets dry. It is important that the skins of the aubergine pieces are cooked through at this point, as you don't want them to be tough in the moussaka.

Add the garlic to the mixture and cook for a minute.

Note: Some people like to 'sweat' the aubergines before adding them to the sauteuse pan with the onions and red peppers, but I find it's not necessary if your aubergine pieces are small and you follow the instructions above. If you want to 'sweat' the aubergines first, you need to place the cubes in a colander, sprinkle them with salt and cover them with a plate and weigh the plate down with a heavy object. Leave the aubergines in the colander like this to drain for about 20 minutes before adding them to the sauteuse pan with the peppers and onions. As I say, I don't find this necessary, but it's personal preference.

Once the peppers, aubergines, onions and garlic are sautéed and tender, tip them into a bowl, and add the wine or cider, the tomato puree, cinnamon, parsley and cooked lentils. Mix well. Spoon the mixture into the soufflé or oven proof dish.

Now its time to prepare your topping.

Ingredients for a yoghurt topping (vegetarian but not plant-based):

2 eggs

4 tablespoons of natural yoghurt (200g) tub

2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

freshly grated nutmeg

Beat the eggs together with the yoghurt, Parmesan and a little freshly grated nutmeg (beating it with a fork works well - no need to get the mixer out). Pour this over the top of the lentil and vegetable mixture. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the top is puffy and golden.

Ingredients for a potato topping (plant-based):

2-3 large potatoes, peeled and halved

Cook the potatoes until they are tender. Drain, and cut into 1 cm thick slices. Layer them over the top of the aubergine and vegetable mixture. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, checking that the potatoes are browning, but not getting too crispy.

Tip: I often double up the quantities for the filling, so I can split the mixture between 2 dishes, and I put one dish in the freezer to use on another occasion.

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