Moussaka, 31p [VG/V/DF/GF*]
As the granddaughter of a Cypriot immigrant, I know my claim to have made the ‘ultimate’ moussaka is indeed a bold one. My grandfather would laugh in my face at the very notion of this vegan offering being considered anything close to the original, but, being a former chef himself (he once had a restaurant called the BellaPais in Southend, before moving on to greasy spoon fry-ups at his humble guest house), his laughter would surely dissipate into an appreciative growl once he got this past his guffaws. I have long feared making moussaka, worrying it would not pass muster with my Greek bones, but tonight, I think I have cracked it. Gone are the eggs that would normally bolster the white sauce, replaced instead with unctuous cashew milk and a smattering of mustard for richness. The lamb becomes lentils, a sort of poundshop reverse Jesus trick, and the whole thing luxuriates, dense yet sloppy, earthy yet bright, wholesome yet decadent, and 31p per portion.
Serves 8 generously – leftovers can be frozen in individual portions for easy ready meals and reheated for 45 minutes at 180C from frozen, or 25 minutes if defrosted.
250g dried green or brown lentils, 57p (£1.15/500g, Sainsburys)
2 small onions, 12p (90p/1,5kg, Sainsburys Basics)
6 fat cloves of garlic, 9p (35p/2 bulbs, Sainsburys Basics)
2 tbsp oil, 3p (£3/3l, vegetable or sunflower oil, Sainsburys)
400g chopped tomatoes, 35p (35p/400g, Sainsburys Basics)
50ml red wine, 23p (£3.50/750ml, Basic table wine)
1 tsp dried thyme or other herbs, <1p (80p/100g thyme, Natco brand)
¼ tsp each salt and pepper, <1p
1 tsp lemon juice or red wine vinegar, 1p (£1.15/500ml, Sainsburys RWV)
1 large aubergine, 75p (75p each, Sainsburys)
1 slice bread, grated into breadcrumbs*, 2p (45p/22 slice loaf, Sainsburys Basics) – to make gluten free, simply omit these or use your favourite gluten free bread or breadcrumb mix
For the white sauce:
1 tbsp flour*, <1p (55p/1.5kg plain flour, Sainsburys Basics) – to make this gluten free, substitite with your preferred gluten free flour and make as per instructions
1 tbsp oil, 2p (£3/3l vegetable or sunflower oil, Sainsburys)
250ml cashew or soya milk, 25p (25p/1l, Sainsburys)
½ tsp mustard, <1p (45p/180g, Sainsburys Basics mustard)
First thoroughly rinse the lentils, then tip into a saucepan that will take double their weight, and cover them with water. Do not add salt as the skins may seize, harden and never quite cook; a rookie mistake, and an infuriating one. Bring them to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, while you make the accompanying sauce.
Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic, and pop into a large pan with the oil. Cook on a medium heat for a few minutes to soften, then tip in the tomatoes, wine, lemon, herbs, salt and pepper. Fill a mug with water and pop it on the side. Bring it to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. You might ask, why not put the lentils and sauce in the same pot? Pulses tend to give off a greyish ‘scum’ as they cook, which rises to the top of the pan, rather like the foam at the edges of the sea, but not quite as romantically evocative. I cook them separately to skim this off, or rinse it thoroughly at the end, simpler to do from a separate pan than to pan through the sauce hoping to catch it all.
After 20 minutes, drain and thoroughly rinse the lentils – and I mean thoroughly – and tip them into the sauce pan to continue to cook. Give the lentil pan a quick rinse, and use it to make your white sauce.
Measure the flour and oil into the pan, and beat together over a low heat to form a paste. Add a splash of milk, and beat together quickly to incorporate it. Add another splash, and repeat, until you have a loose, runny mixture with no lumps. If the odd lump does occur, you can sieve it out with a sieve or tea strainer, but if you don’t rush it, they shouldn’t be a problem. Bring the heat up to medium, and as your sauce starts to thicken, add a little more milk, until it is all gone. Remove the heat and allow it to stand to one side.
Check your lentil mixture – you may need to add a little of that mug of water if it starts to look a bit thick. Your ideal texture is loose and sloppy but not too wet; the lentils will carry on absorbing liquid for a while yet. After the sauce – now including the lentils – has been cooking for around 40 minutes (20 pre-lentils, 20 after), remove it from the heat and stand it to one side with the white sauce. Turn your oven on to 180C, and grab an ovenproof dish.
Spoon in a layer of lentil mixture to cover the base of the dish. Very finely slice your aubergine, until it is almost translucent (if you are a fan of thicker slices, you may need two, or to ration your layers!) Lay the aubergine over the lentil mixture. Spread the white sauce on top, using the back of a spoon to coat the aubergine slices. Repeat; lentils, aubergine, sauce, two or three times. Your top layer should be a layer of white sauce. Top with breadcrumbs, if using, them place in the oven for 40 minutes to bake, until golden.
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This looks incredible and I have most of this just sitting in the cupboard! Will buy an aubergine and a lemon and will definitely try this!! do you ever feel the need to soak the aubergine if you use thicker slices? Ive seen contradicting reports on whether or not to soak them…
I never, ever do. I find that they sweeten when they’re roasted. In fact, you could kick-start them by brushing with oil and roasting at 200 degrees for 3-4 minutes before using them.
I love your recipes, but do you think you could get around to indicate the weight of vegetables? I seem to remember that a large UK aubergine is more or less a medium sized melanzana.
If not, no problem. I don’t think there can ever be too much melanzana in a moussaka, or in any other dish.
Oh gosh well I’ve sliced it now but will bear in mind for future recipes 🙂
Will give this a go. Trying to cut down on meat. But not cheese, so will only be vegetarian rather than vegan.
Well, the lamb thanks you 😗
Sounds great. I will try it. An alternative vegan white sauce involves the following. Would love to know what you think. In a blender blend cashews, soya milk, lemon juice and a white wine to taste. Blend until smooth… When you pour it over your lentils and aubergines and bake it it will form a lovely browned crispy topping with a slightly tangy flavour.
You truly are a master, I am sure your grandfather is very very proud of your work! I will make this next week and send photos.
Fantastic! I’ve missed out on moussaka since I gave up meat; I shall definitely give this a try. I’m enjoying your vegan recipes, Jack.
It’s almost exactly the same as your lasagne which I made last night. I made an oatey crumble topping with vegan Parmesan and yeast flakes. I will give this a go when I next have an aubergine,
I always use cornflour for white sauces – it also makes it gluten free. This sounds lovely it is ages since I have made moussaka
Am currently eating your Tarka Daal. Delicious. Plan to try your Moussaka but is it fine use regular milk in the sauce?
I ordered green lentils to come with my shopping and they substituted it with red lentils. I’m going to use red lentils and see how I get on. I’ll let you know the results. Red lentils are now a staple of mine as I do a version of the dhal on this site. So the the extra red lentils delivered are just that – extra. Its all good though.
DEE-Licious. Need to make sure my tomato and letilis thicker next time but lovely taste.
Sounds lovely…. may be worth mentioning that B&M offer a bottle of red or white wine for £2.49 (full sized 750ml) its british and isnt much to write home about but works well in cooking. They also do mini sized bottles at £1.09 as well. Hope this helps.
Thanks for this. I try and keep some wine for cooking, but do not always manage. At this price I can buy a bottle and keep it only for cooking. Love b & m.
Hi! I really want to try this, but I don’t really like using alcohol in recipes, is there anything you could recommend I could use instead of the red wine? Thanks 🙂
Just leave it out and add a dash of balsamic or red wine vinegar
I plan to make this over the weekend. Have even saved some red wine – a first. I have a cooked vacuum pack of puy lentils that I will use. Been looking for a recipe for them.
Moussaka is one of my favourite disches!!! Fantastic recipe. I will try it. Thank you!
I’ve had this on my meal plan all week….and I finally had time to make it today. It’s absolutely DELICIOUS! Honestly, I wasn’t exactly sure how it would turn out as I didn’t have vegan milk so used cows milk, and added soya mince to bulk it out for my hard-working husband who played rugby today so needs a lot of food! But it’s just perfect, warming, full of flavour and texture and just perfect. Served it with fried potatoes and home made hummus because I love them! Keep up the good work Jack, your recipes are divine.
Made this and it is gorgeous. Scared down half for lunch, will freeze the rest: should have 2 portions. Used puy lentils which worked well. Did add some cheese to white sauce and on top. Did use soya milk though.
With food like this I really do not miss meat. This is much tastier than any lamb Moussaka I have eaten. But I am struggling to give up cheese!!!
This was absolutely and utterly magnificent. The texture was fabulous, the cooking aroma was divine, it looked just like the photo (mine sadly had 1 or 2 burnt spots) and the flavours we’re out of this world. I’m veggie for 2018 (poss forever) and this is inspiring. Thanks Mx Jack
Lovely! I will be making this again. Thank you. X