from one generation to the next
Feeding a hungry Dad and three growing teenagers during lean times strained the budget to the point that after essentials were settled, there wasn’t much left to spend on food. Cooking with tough financial constraints is a challenge, but with a developing interest in good food and nutrition, I turned to the rustic peasant diets of India, the Middle East and Meditteranean for inspiration, to diets based on legumes, grains and seasonal vegetables.
I discovered a series of small paperback publications by Jack Santamaria in my local library that helped enormously, books based on the traditional peasant cuisines of China, Italy, India, France and Greece, each full of recipes to prepare complete nutritious and delicious meals based purely on seasonal vegetables.
The original Vegetable Moussaka recipe came from Santamaria’s “Greek Vegetarian Cookery.” I’ve varied the vegetables over the years, but no matter what, it’s so good that even though we can again afford to eat good meat, I still like to make it for sheer eating pleasure.
2 carrots, cut into 3cm chunks
3 medium potatoes, cut into 3cm chunks
1 large eggplant (aubergine)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 spring onions, green tops only
1 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200g portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 cup steamed Swiss chard leaves, chopped
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large zucchini cut into 2cm chunks
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
6 allspice berries, ground
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
1/2 cup gluten free plain flour
720 mls cold milk (I use low fat lactose free)
3 egg yolks
Nutmeg, salt and pepper
90g shredded tasty cheese
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Steam the carrot and potato until just done. Set aside.
Wash the eggplant and cut into 3cm cubes.
Heat the 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pan, add the eggplant and 1/4 cup water.
Cover the pan and steam the eggplant until it starts to become translucent, about 5 mins.
Remove the lid and continue to cook until all the water has evaporated.
Add the spring onion greens, mushroom, tomato and garlic, plus a little oil if the pan is too dry. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the potatoes, carrots, chard and spices. Cook until the chard wilts.
Remove from the heat then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Tip the vegetables into a greased casserole dish then scatter the cheese over the top.
to make the bechamel:
Whisk the flour and egg yolks into the cold milk.
Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens.
Remove the pan from the heat and season to taste with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.
Pour the sauce over the cheese topped vegetables, then sprinkle with the paprika, oregano and pepper.
Bake in a moderate oven, 170C for 45minutes until golden brown.