My holiday in Greece this year was wonderful. I stayed in Vassiliki on Lefkas, a pretty and laid back harbourside town and watersports centre where I windsurfed for the first time (proof that I can get out of my comfort zone). I also spent one morning on a tour of the nearby olive groves (where there are also walnut and pomegranate trees), learning about herbs from an experienced and wise herbologist called Aris. I came home full of enthusiasm for using more herbs in my cooking and have since stocked up my raised garden bed with new plants (more rosemary, marjoram, savoury and oregano).
This moussaka is in celebration of the holiday and to keep my summer memories alive (especially as the clocks go back today). I love lamb moussaka but this is an easy way to cut down on meat – the texture of lentils make them a very good substitute for minced lamb. I used Puy lentils in this recipe because that’s all I had in the cupboard but tinned lentils are a better choice for baking as they are much cheaper.
Moussaka is really easy to make, you just need to be organised to bring together all the various components and layers. I’ve discovered that the trick in getting that lovely moussaka flavour is to use lots of freshly grated nutmeg on the béchamel topping. Normally nutmeg is a bit overpowering but with moussaka it seems to be impossible to use too much.
This recipe makes enough for four generous helpings using a 20cm x 27 cm oven dish.
1 onion finely chopped
1 chopped clove of garlic
2 small aubergines
2 tins of green or brown lentils, drained
2 medium potatoes
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
Hot water (from a boiled kettle)
Half a teaspoon of dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Olive oil for cooking
Salt and pepper
For the béchamel sauce
100g plain flour
500mls warmed milk
Grated fresh nutmeg
Salt and pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Slice the aubergines, brush with olive oil and place on an oven sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil and cook the onion gently for five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, rinse out the tin with hot water and add to the mixture with the tomato purée. Add the lentils, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Stir well and bring to the boil and then simmer gently for about 20 minutes.
- While the lentil mixture is cooking, peel and slice the potatoes and boil in a saucepan of salted water until just cooked, then drain.
- Make the béchamel sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir well. Gradually add the warm milk, mixing well with a whisk until you have a smooth sauce. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Build the moussaka by spreading a thick layer of lentil and tomato mixture in the oven dish, followed by a layer of aubergines, then repeat. Lay the potato slices on top followed by the béchamel sauce. Grate a generous amount of nutmeg on the top, then bake for about 30 minutes at 180C or until bubbling and slightly browned.
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