Vegetarian Moussaka

aubergines-cropped

Serves 2 to 3

This version of moussaka replaces minced lamb with Puy lentils to make a delicious vegetarian dish. I think it is lighter than the meat version. It’s packed full of protein.

It’s very moreish, so if you are serving it on its own, serving 3 people will be a stretch. But add a salad and there will be plenty for 3.

This recipe will make about twice as much of the lentil mixture as you will need. The rest can be used another time; make a lasagne or mix them into a salad or eat them on their own with crusty bread or a baked potato. You get the idea!

For the lentils…
Several sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
250g Puy lentils, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
4 large celery sticks, finely diced
400g tin chopped tomatoes (preferably Mutti tomato pulp)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the béchamel…
35g butter
25g plain flour
450ml whole milk
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the finished dish…
Olive oil
2 medium aubergines, sliced into rounds about 1cm thick
150g strong mature cheddar, grated
60g grated parmesan

30cm x 20cm deep-sided oval oven-proof dish (or similar), buttered

Put the thyme in a large saucepan of unsalted water and bring it to a boil. Add the lentils. Turn down the heat and simmer until just cooked, approx. 35 minutes. Drain and set aside, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Remove the fresh thyme sprigs.

Meanwhile make the sauce to go with the lentils. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the onions and sauté gently until starting to soften, approx. 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the celery, cover, turn the heat down low and allow the vegetables to sweat and soften for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon, chilli, red wine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook covered for about 20 minutes until the vegetables have softened and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the lentils and check the seasoning. The mixture shouldn’t be watery, but if it looks too dry, add a splash of the reserved lentil cooking liquid.

Next make the béchamel. Put the butter, flour and milk in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring continuously with a balloon whisk. Leave to simmer on a very low heat for 8 minutes, stirring it with the balloon whisk a couple of times. Take off the heat and season with salt and pepper.

While the béchamel is cooking, fry the aubergine slices in a large frying pan in a little oil until golden and slightly softened. You must cook the aubergine slices in a single layer, so fry them in batches.

To assemble the dish, spread half of the lentils onto the bottom of the dish, then add a layer of half of the aubergine slices. Add the other half of the lentils and sprinkle over the cheddar cheese. Add the rest of the aubergine slices to form a final layer then spoon over the béchamel to cover evenly. Finally sprinkle the surface with the grated parmesan.

The dish can now be covered in cling film and stored in the fridge until needed.

To cook the dish, heat the oven to 180°c and bake the moussaka for 30 to 45 minutes until brown and bubbling.

Hungarian Pepper and Chickpea Casserole

sweet-peppers

Serves 3 to 4

This is a fantastic, flavoursome vegan casserole that needs no more to go with it than a few chunks of crusty bread. It is also great with pasta or rice.

The overriding flavour is of smoked paprika which I love but not everyone is a fan – including LW. So, if you don’t like smoked paprika, just replace it with ordinary paprika.

This dish is easy to prepare and can be cooked ahead and stored in the fridge until needed.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
4 bell peppers (1 each of red, green, yellow and orange), deseeded and sliced
Salt
Ground black pepper
700g passata
400g tin chick peas, drained
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp smoked paprika
A generous pinch chilli flakes

Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onions until softened and starting to colour. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute, then stir in the peppers, salt and black pepper. Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables for about 10 minutes until the peppers are starting to soften.

Add all of the other ingredients, bring to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

At this stage the dish can be cooled and stored in the fridge until needed. To reheat, tip the casserole into a sauce pan, cover and gently bring to a simmer.

National Food Days

cheeseburger-lr

Never mind traditional public high days and holidays, there now seem to be days set aside to celebrate just about everything from felt hats to cheeseburgers. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of them are American National Days.

Today – Thursday 15th September – is the day to celebrate three great foods and one traditional drink, as follows.

National Cheese Toast Day
Toast with cheese on; we all love it! But did you know that Del Johnson of Los Angeles claimed to have invented it in 1958? Perhaps he had never heard of Welsh rarebit which has references dating back to 1725.

National Linguine Day
Hey, who needs an excuse to eat pasta? Linguine, which translates as little tongues, has an elliptical shape, a bit wider than spaghetti. Its origins lie in Liguria, so not surprisingly it is perfect with pesto.

National Double Cheeseburger Day
Personally, I think you can have too much of a good thing, so if you want to celebrate a single cheeseburger, why not wait until Sunday which is National Cheeseburger Day.

National Crème de Menthe Day
I suspect you either love it or hate it served neat. But it is a popular ingredient in some cocktails. It was developed in France as a digestif. It is available either white (colourless) or green. Traditionally the green colour comes from the Corsican mint leaves that are used to make it. Today the colour often comes from the addition of colouring agents.

Non-food National Day
Just so you know, today is also National Online Learning Day and National Felt Hat Day.

More National Days
There is a website dedicated to national days if you looking for an excuse for a daily celebration.

Lasagne with Ratatouille

Uncooked lasagna pasta isolated on white background

 

Serves 4

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of an empty stomach must be in want of a lasagne.

(That’s what you get when you cross a love of Jane Austen with a love of Italian food.)

So, being that man, I made a lasagne using left over ratatouille. And it was fantastic! Creamy tomato sauce with vegetables, cheddar cheese, parmesan and sheets of pasta cooked until part crispy, part chewy, all excellent. As our American cousins would say, “Oh my God, it was awesome!” (That’s why I prefer Jane Austen.)

This dish is vegetarian.

Oh, and you first of all better check out my ratatouille recipe because you’ll need a portion of that before you start.

For the béchamel…
75g butter
50g plain flour
800ml whole milk
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the finished dish…
Ratatouille – enough to make three layers in your lasagne dish
10 to 12 sheets (200g to 250g) lasagne
150g strong mature cheddar, grated
60g grated parmesan

You will need a 30cm x 20cm lasagne dish or glass/ceramic baking dish, buttered.

To make the béchamel put the butter, flour and milk in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring continuously with a balloon whisk. Leave to simmer on a very low heat for 8 minutes, stirring it with the balloon whisk a couple of times. Take it off the heat and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the dish, spread a layer of ratatouille onto the bottom of the dish, then add a layer of lasagne sheets. Add another layer of ratatouille, a layer of one third of the béchamel and sprinkle with half of the cheddar. Repeat by adding another layer of lasagne, another layer of ratatouille, another third of the béchamel and sprinkle with the remaining cheddar. Add a final layer of lasagne and the last third of the béchamel. Sprinkle the surface with the grated parmesan.

The dish can now be covered in cling film and stored in the fridge until needed.

To cook the dish, heat the oven to 180°c and bake the lasagne for 30 to 45 minutes until brown and bubbling.

Ratatouille in a Slow Cooker

Ratatouille in a Slow Cooker lr

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side dish

Ratatouille is a classic Mediterranean vegetable stew. It is great as an accompaniment to just about any meat or poultry or you can use it as a base for pasta sauces. I like to eat a big bowl full of it simply with crusty bread or potatoes.

I cook this dish in a slow cooker which I find intensifies the flavours of vegetables. I use a 6.5ltr slow cooker so there is plenty to portion up for the freezer.

This dish is vegan and vegetarian.

5 mixed colour peppers (capsicums), deseeded and cut into bite sized pieces
4 medium courgettes cut into bite sized pieces
1 large aubergine cut into bite sized pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium red onions, roughly chopped
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled and grated or finely chopped
A large handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
700g best quality passata
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
Salt
Ground black pepper

Place the peppers, courgettes and aubergine in the bowl of your slow cooker.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions until starting to soften and colour, approx. 7 minutes. Add the garlic and basil and stir fry for 1 minute. Stir in the passata, vinegar, sugar, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then pour over the vegetables and stir to mix well.

Cook covered in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours. If you are about give it a good stir half way through, taste it and adjust the seasoning. But if you are not about, don’t worry; you can do this at the end of the cooking time.