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
Freshly ground black pepper
For the béchamel…
25g plain flour
450ml whole milk
Freshly ground black pepper
For the finished dish…
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.