When I went into the kitchen to make this, I had originally decided to make a lasagna to use up a huge quantity of Bolognese 'mince' sauce that I had cooked the previous night.
But then I realised that I didn't have any pasta sheets. And it was raining, which meant I didn't really want schlep down the hill just for one ingredient.
But I reaaaallly wanted a squishy comforting baked thing. The sort that is ridiculously delicious. But very difficult to make look pretty in a photo.
I'd also already soaked the cashews, ready to make my bechamel (ish) sauce, so was sort of half way committed to the process.
Then I remembered eating a comforting veggie based moussaka on a rainy Autumn day in Greece on a trip with my parents a few years ago & thought it could be easily veganised. All I needed to do was sub the pasta for thinly sliced potatoes and possibly aubergine.
My 'mince' sauce already has a whole diced aubergine in it, so I decided that actually using up some mushrooms that were hanging around in the fridge might actually be a nicer idea than more sliced aubergines, however to make the 'mince' a little more Greek flavoured, I then added in a pinch of cinnamon, which sounds a little unconventional, but really does work.
This isn't really the quickest dish to make. But it's worth it. Stick with me.
I'd suggest making a massive pot of the Bolognese 'mince' sauce the night before to eat with pasta, then using the rest as the basis for this recipe. You also need to remember to soak the cashews for at least 45 minutes. The potatoes need to be either pan-fried, or oven baked (my preference) and the mushrooms need frying off in some olive oil & herbs, ready to layer up in the moussaka.
The result of all your effort? Well, it may not be authentic, but it sure is delicious!
Make loads. It's even better the next day.
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Vegan Greek Inspired Moussaka
For the 'Mince' Sauce
- 1 Aubergine peeled and very finely chopped
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 red pointy pepper finely chopped
- 2-3 Tbs tomato paste
- 100 grams soy crumbles also known as TVP
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce
- ⅓ cup red wine
- 2-3 drops liquid smoke
- 1 Tbs Vegemite or Marmite (yeast extract)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
For the 'Bechamel' cheezy sauce
- 300 g unsalted, raw cashews soaked in water for 45 mins until soft
- 1 pack firm tofu approx 250g
- 3 Tbs nutritional yeast
- 3 Tbs White Miso
For the potato layer
- 4 medium white potatoes thinly sliced
- 1 tsp olive oil
For the Mushroom layer
- 250 g mushrooms thinly sliced
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp thyme
For the 'Mince'
- In a large pan gently saute the onion, garlic, red peppers and aubergine.
- Wait until the onion and aubergine is very deliciously soft, then add the tomato paste and stir.
- Add in the re-hydrated soya mince and stir to coat. Now add the tinned tomatoes.
- Add all the other ingredients and stir. Simmer until the soy crumbles are soft and the flavours softly blended together. Around 10 minutes
For the Potatoes
- Slice the potatoes and put in a single layer on an oven proof dish.
- Bake in a moderate oven (200c/Gas Mark 6) for around 15 minutes, until they are soft & slightly golden. Remove from the oven once done and keep aside.
For the mushrooms
- Gently pan fry the mushrooms in the oil. Season with the thyme and salt to taste. Keep aside until ready to use
For the 'Bechamel' Sauce
- Make sure the cashew nuts are completely soaked. They plump up when soaked and shouldn't have a hard core when you break them in half. (NB: if you can find broken cashews, they are often cheaper & soak faster!)
- Add the cashews to a blender with a little of their soaking water and starting on a low speed, blitz until smooth. Gradually increase the speed of the blender once the mix becomes smoother
- Add the tofu and blitz again. You want a heavy creamy texture.
- Add the miso & nutritional yeast & blitz again. Taste and add more of either until the flavour is slightly cheezy and creamy.
To assemble the mousaka.
- In an oven proof casserole, spoon half the 'mince' in a thick layer, then add a layer of potato & one of mushrooms.
- Repeat with the remaining mince, potato and mushrooms.
- Splodge (technical word!) the cashew 'Bechamel' over the top and smooth in a thick layer.
- Add some breadcrumbs to the top if you want a little extra crunch on top. Not authentic, but very yummy!
- Put the dish in a moderate oven- Gas Mark 6/ 200C for around 25minutes, until it is golden on top and heated through.
- Leave to cool for at least 15 minutes. This will make it easier to cut. It's traditional to eat it at room temperature, usually as part of a big mezze feast, but I like it hot, just out of the oven, just as much!