sharing recipes from one generation to the next
There was a period in our lives when we were vegetarians, not motivated by health or moral sanctity but purely by economics.
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.
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Creativeness and ingenuity sure make for interesting dishes!! I’m going to try this one… that’s for sure!! 😉
A very interesting take on a gratin type dish. I have also never seen bechamel made this way. Thanks for the great ideas.
I ditto John. 😀 ))) I love vegetarian dishes, but never can be one. So I enjoy both ways. 😀 ))) I love moussaka, and used to make it often. I am definitely going to give this one a try, as I love all the vegetables you have used. 😛
Thanks Fae, I enjoy meat way too much to be a vego, but I still try to have a couple of meat free days a week.
This looks lovely Sandra. My eldest daughter, Charlotte, announced 2 days ago that she is now a vegetarian! Not sure how long it will last, but this is something I must definitely make for her. And for me too! xox
Good luck with Charlotte’s diet Lidia. It’s difficult to get young teens to consume enough proteins. I had a daughter make the same announcement at a similar age, and as a working Mum, it had to mean the whole family became vego, no time for extra cooking, but in the end it broadened my cooking experiences enormously
Tasty and interesting, albeit non-traditional moussaka. 😉 I love all the different veggies – livens the dish up! It’s like a briam (a Greek vegetable stew) with béchamel. I still seek out these “peasant” rustic dishes from around the world, though I am more familiar with the Mediterranean ones. I think there is a lot to be said for cooking economical, healthy, colourful, tasty and unpretentious foods.
Yes, rustic peasant style dishes are firm favorites here too Deb, this one is especially good
I do make vegetarian moussaka pretty regularly but shall copy your appetizing recipe the next time around. Since I love stuffed vegetables and vegetarian pasta sauces I try to manage two vegetarian main meals a week . . . . yes, also love meat far too much to quite leave it aside and besides do feel it is a little complicated to get all one’s food requirements from vegetables and pulses only: say CoQ10, zinc etc.
Yes it’s tough to balance ethics, morals, appetite AND health. I pretty much try to stick to moderation in all thing, except vegetables
Mmm…..I make a veggie moussaka but love the sound of yours, will certainly be bookmarking to try in the future. We have a tonne of vegetarians in our family and would be a great dish to feed the hungry hordes with.
Thanks Cheery, I’d like to see your version of Vegie Moussaka.
I love moussaka. This looks fantastic!
Thanks Shanna, a delicious dish for a cold winter night
I tried to go vegetarian some time ago and lasted about 6 months. I craved meat too much to continue. 🙂 As much as I love moussaka, I never considered a vegetarian version. This really sounds delicious. With our farmers markets raching their peak, your timing could not be better.
I try to have at least one meatless meal a week, just to vary our diet. There is always a tussle for the leftovers of moussaka it’s so delicious.