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Vegetarian Musakka (Moussaka)






INGREDIENTS 

·      2 aubergines
·      2 courgettes
·      2 white potatoes, peeled
·      8 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped 
·      4-6 tbsp olive oil
·      1 tsp oregano
·      1 tsp dried thyme (or you can use a few sprigs fresh)
·      690g tomato passata 
·      1 large onion, peeled, finely chopped 
·      300g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped 
·      1 can cooked green lentils, drained OR 250g puy lentils
·      1 vegetable stock cube  
·      1/2 tsp cumin 
·      3/4tsp cinnamon 
·      3/4 tsp paprika  
·      1 tsp smoked paprika 
·      1 tbsp chopped parsley 
·      1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
·      1 tbsp pomegranate molasses  
·      1 bay leaf
·      50g butter
·      50g plain flour 
·      650ml milk
·      150g grated gruyere or cheddar cheese
·      2 eggs, whisked
·      Cracked black pepper
·      A few sprigs of fresh thyme and a few sliced cherry tomatoes 

METHOD

1.    Firstly make the bechamel so it has time to cool down (to whisk in the eggs later on). Melt the butter in a stainless steel pan on a medium heat, then whisk in the flour to form a roux (thick paste). Add the milk at around 150ml at a time, whisking consistently, adding more as and when the sauce thickens and bubbles. Once all the milk has been poured in and the sauce just starts to come up to a simmer, take off the heat, stir in the cheese and leave to one side until later. 


2.  Preheat oven to 200C (fan). 

3.   Slice aubergine, courgette and potato into thin 1/2cm rounds. Put the potatoes and courgettes into a large bowl and drizzle with 2-3tbsp olive oil, dried oregano, thyme, 1/2 of the chopped garlic, and some black pepper until they’re all coated. Add the aubergine to the bowl and mix all the veg together with the oil. 

4.  Grease a deep metal baking tray with a little olive oil, pour in half of the passata, a drizzle of olive oil and 100ml cold water, stir, then start to line up the vegetables until the tray is full. Cover tray with foil and bake on the middle shelf for 25-30 mins. 

5.   While the vegetables are cooking in the oven, heat the sunflower oil in a large pan on a low-medium heat, and cook the onion for 8-10 mins until softened and translucent. Melt the stock cube in 500ml boiling water. Add the mushrooms and garlic, cook for a further 2-3 minutes before adding the spices, stirring well, then the lentils, the rest of the passata, pomegranate molasses and vinegar, herbs, stock, bay leaf, bring everything back to the boil then turn down and simmer on a low-medium heat for around 30 mins until the sauce has thickened. 

6.  After 25-30 mins of the vegetables cooking, take out the tray, drizzle veg with a little more olive oil, and bake uncovered for another 25-30 mins.

7.   Whisk the eggs into the cheese sauce. 

8.  Take out tray, turn heat down to 180C, top the vegetables with the mushroom and lentil sauce, then carefully spread over the bechamel, scatter over the fresh thyme and tomatoes, and bake uncovered for 35-40 mins more on the middle shelf. Allow to cool for 15-20 mins before serving. 


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