12 January 2008

Vegetarian Moussaka for the Royal Foodie Joust

Another year has come to a close and with it another year of hopes and new beginnings. To start my year off right I am entering the Royal Foodie Joust once again. This event is the brainchild of Jenn over at Leftover Queen . We share a passion for Mediterranean foods. I wish I lived in Florida so that I could join her cooking classes!!! Each month 3 challenging ingredient combinations are chosen by the previous months winner. Last months winner Dharm at Dad~Baker & Chef announced

eggplant, lentils and cinnamon

as this months challenge for the Joust. I often wonder what the winner has in mind for a recipe when they choose the 3 ingredients?

Immediately I thought of Moussaka. There was just no other recipe that called out to me as this one did to use the ingredients. I have a recipe that I use from the Hotel Grand Bretagne in Athens. I love the layer of potato added to the moussaka as well as the baking of the vegetables rather than frying. To switch up the original recipe I decided to create a vegetarian version of moussaka using a lentil sauce to replace the Bolognese Sauce. I viewed several versions of this Vegetarian Moussaka on the net. You can also use mushrooms in the sauce if you would care to. I also added cheese to the bechamel sauce to give it a flavour boost!

Preparing legumes is quite simple but it does take some extra time. You can use canned varieties for convenience.

Here are a few tips:

1) Two cups of dry lentils yields about 3 - 3 1/2 cups cooked lentils.
2) A tablespoon of butter or margarine to the cooking water will help to reduce foaming.
3) Salt and acids (eg. lemon juice) will impair the softening process of lentils and beans; add these closer to the end of the cooking time.


In the meantime this photo is a photo shopped version of my Greek door photo in Oia on the island of Santorini, Greece ...finally posted the photo of the moussaka!

**Val's Vegetarian Moussaka**

6 large Yukon Gold potatoes (2-1/2 lbs)
1 large eggplant or 2 small
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1-1/2 cups shredded kefalograviera or Gruyere cheese

Bechamel Cheese Sauce :

2 T butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk (hot)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch grated nutmeg

2 large eggs
3/4 cup( 70 g ) feta

Lentil sauce:

1 onion
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup (50 g) red lentils
1/2 cup (50 g) Puy lentils/green lentils
1 cup (250g) brown lentils
Hot water or vegetable stock ( I used chicken stock; so my version is no longer vegetarian)
1 28 oz (796 mL) can chopped tomatoes (about 2 cups)

a pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp dried oregano or marjoram
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or use a broken cinnamon stick)
1 cup red wine
pinch of sugar
1/2 cup grated feta
2 T grated Parmesan (or kefalograviera or Gruyere)
1-2 T fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 450F. Peel potatoes and eggplant; cut into 1/2-inch thick slices. Arrange in single layer on parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheets. Brush both sides with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in 450F oven , turning once until tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Make Lentil Sauce: Sweat the onion and garlic in a little butter until softened (about 10 minutes).
Add the dried lentils and the stock; the stock should cover the lentils (you may need to adjust the amount). Add the cinnamon, a pinch of sugar,the wine, herbs and tomatoes. Simmer the lentils until tender - the stock should be well absorbed but the lentils should not be dry, so add more stock during cooking if required. Remove cinnamon stick if using and discard. Add black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.
Add the cheeses and the bread crumbs. You might not need all of the breadcrumbs if the lentil mixture is fairly dry. Mix well.

Make the bechamel cheese sauce: Meanwhile, in saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; whisk in flour and stir until mixture is well blended. Gradually stir in hot milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to boil and thickens. Simmer, stirring frequently, over very low heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add a little nutmeg, if desired. Allow it to cool slightly (you don’t want the eggs to scramble on contact). Beat the eggs and add them, whisking well, followed by the feta cheese.

To assemble: Spread 1 cup of the lentil sauce in 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish. Layer half of the potatoes, 2 cups of the lentil sauce, all of the eggplant, 2 cups of the lentil sauce, remaining potatoes and remaining lentil sauce. Spread bechamel sauce over top. (Make ahead, let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate uncovered until cold; cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Add 40 minutes to baking time). Sprinkle with kefalograveria. Bake in 350F oven until browned and bubbly about 1 hour. Let stand for 10 minutes; cut into squares.

Serves 10 -12
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  1. Val, a very interesting take on Moussaka. I await the photo to entice me.

    PS..who's Marje?

  2. Talk about comfort food, this sounds like a definate one. Looking forward to the photo. I think you should win with this one. Totally full of flavors! Love the layer thing!

  3. Marye is a fellow food blogger Peter. I guess I always assume that everyone knows the other bloggers that I know. She often participates in the Royal Foodie Joust from her series of blogs "Apron Strings and Simmering Things" and "Baking Delights"....she has a well noted thing for chipotles!!!!!
    Thanks ever so much for the encouragement Deb. I still have to out the Christmas tree from the house this morning and pick up the ingredients to make this moussaka!

  4. I love this recipe and the fact that it's vegetarian. I'm always at a loss to adapt the meat versions to a meatless option. Great job.

  5. I have never tried moussaka before, but now I am very intrigued. It sounds delicious!!

  6. This sounds delicious Val! I'm learning so many new recipes since I started blogging!!! I heard of Moussaka but never tried it. I'll bookmark yours!

    I still have my Xmas tree in the house too!!!!!!!!! Guess where I am in my free time!

  7. Sounds great! Can't wait to see the pic.

  8. Bookmarking this one!

  9. Val! Nice job on this one!! Strangely enough, a vegetarian Moussaka using lentils instead of meat was something that I thought off when I conjured up the ingredients. I'm so glad you made something western as I figured most people would take the Asian route or at least a variation on an Asian theme. Great stuff and I think I will just HAVE to make something myself (but not take part)too! Love the Moussaka and I must give it a try sometime

  10. This sounds very interesting Valli, and a great entry for the Joust! Where did you stay in Oia?

  11. Wow! You went all out on this one. What a great idea!
    I love this joust contest. I'm still thinking about what I want to do.
    I've always used lentils from the can, so thanks for the tips.

  12. What a gorgeous dish! I love the delicious flavours in this, so appealing!

  13. Terrific, Val. I wish I can keep up with all these blogging events. I always thought that moussaka was vegetarian, but I guess I thought wrong. I like the sound of your version - yumm!!! I am sure that the photos will only make it even more yummmmm :-)

  14. Thanks for all the encouragment guys. My daughter and I stayed in Firostefani when we were in Santorini at the Hotel Ilias on the Caldera. The breathtaking views are worth spending 2X the amount for your hotel stay. We rented a quad so explored the islands small villages, fabulous out of the way restaurants and wineries.

  15. That moussaka looks good. I like when you post the photos with the recipes. I'm more tempted to try them. Have a good day.

  16. Oh my goodness, this looks good! It's been ages since I've made moussaka...I think I have to remedy that! YUM!

  17. Beautiful job Valli! I love this take on Moussaka! It sounds delish!
    Best of luck, my friend.


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