Go meat-free with this hearty Greek moussaka for all family

Weekend Foodie: Di Curtin cooks up a veggie delight, followed by a fruit dessert
Go meat-free with this hearty Greek moussaka for all family

Meat-free Moussaka

CHRISTMAS is coming! The evidence is all around us. Twinkly lights have begun to appear and Santa figures with laden sleighs are bedecking the windows of shops.

The Holly Bough is out - look out for my festive wine selections inside! - and the John Lewis ad has also been aired, traditionally declaring the festive season open for business!

This weekend, I’m rustling up a dish with winter flavours that might be a good one for your repertoire if you have vegetarians visiting this Christmas.

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy this though! It’s a dish all the family will love.

Moussaka is usually a meat dish, layered similarly to lasagne but with slices of aubergine and, traditionally, minced lamb. However, it’s been adapted to use minced beef also.

My version uses only vegetables, with flavoursome chestnut and firm textured Portobello mushrooms layered between the aubergine, combined in a rich tomato sauce.

The usual finish of Greek yogurt and egg, topped with feta and cheddar cheese, gives a golden bubbly topping.

This dish is warming and filling and makes a great winter supper in the run up to or during the festive season.

I’ve kept the dessert light after such a substantial, flavour-packed main course.

Seasonal clementines, the fruits of Christmas, and fresh pears are marinated in a spiced syrup which echoes the scents and tastes of festive baking.

This dessert looks colourful in a pretty glass bowl and makes the kitchen smell sensational!

Meat-free Moussaka

Ingredients (serves 4 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying 1 largish onion, peeled and finely chopped 2 fat cloves, garlic, peeled and crushed 1 large courgette, in small chunks 500g mixed mushrooms (Portobello and Chestnut are good) ½ tsp each ground cumin 1 tsp ground coriander 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes 150mls vegetable stock Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 tsp dried oregano Few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves chopped 2 largish aubergines, sliced 3 tbsp thick Greek Yogurt 2 fresh free range eggs 25g Feta cheese, crumbled 25g mature cheddar, grated Method Heat olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion and garlic till soft but not browned.

Add courgette and mushrooms and cook for a further few minutes till softening, stirring. Add spices and cook for a minute more.

Add chopped tomatoes and stock. Bring to bubbling. Season and stir in oregano and fresh thyme.

Cook over low heat, partially covered, for about 15 minutes Keep an eye on liquid levels and add a little more stock if necessary.

While vegetables are cooking, prepare the aubergines. Slice them thinly lengthways and pat slices dry between two clean tea towels or kitchen paper sheets.

Pour thin layer of olive oil in base of clean non-stick frying pan and fry aubergine slices a few at a time, to brown both sides and begin to soften. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels to drain while you cook the rest. Drain each batch on paper towels.

To assemble, layer a third of the aubergine slices in the base of a large ovenproof dish. Spoon over half mushroom and courgette mix.

Repeat with another third of aubergine slices and top with remaining mushroom and courgette mix.

Finish with remaining aubergine in a layer on top.

Whisk the yogurt and egg together and season. Pour over the top. Scatter with feta and cheddar and bake in a pre-heated oven till heated through thoroughly and top is fluffy and golden brown.

Spiced Winter Fruit Salad

Ingredients (serves 4) 50g caster sugar 50mls water Juice and grated zest of a large orange 2 pieces star anise ½ tsp ground ginger ½ cinnamon stick 4 clementines, peeled and segmented 2-3 ripe pears, cored and in wedges Method Place the sugar in a pan with water and add orange juice, zest and spices.

Heat gently to dissolve sugar, stirring.

Turn up the heat and bubble for about five minutes, till reduced and slightly thickened. You don’t want this to be browned.

Remove from heat and set aside until the temperature is just on the warm side.

Place prepared clementines and pears in a fruit salad bowl and pour over still warm syrup syrup.

Leave to infuse for about 20 minutes before serving.

WINE MATCH

THIS weekend, I’ve found a lively red which will match well with the intense flavours in this Moussaka.

Although there is no meat involved, unlike a traditional Moussaka, there are lots of woodland flavours from the mushrooms and some herb and subtle spice notes. These need a wine which won’t smother those elements.

La Croisade Pinot Noir is a delicious French red from the Languedoc region of the South of France. There’s plenty of sunshine down south which helps the Pino Noir grapes ripen. This gives a huge blast of soft fruit like black cherries and damsons on the tastes of this wine.

There’s also a little vegetal firmness in the body and a brush of herbaceousness to enhance the flavours captured in the mushrooms.

This is a stonker of a red wine at an absolute snip of a price this weekend. Pinot Noir is never cheap, hence the original price tag of this one at €17.99. But don’t freak out, because you can purchase it at Supervalu stores for just €8.99 till December 7. What a find!

A perfect match for this dish, but it will also be a great wine to go with the duck and chicken pates of Christmas.

RECEIPT

MAIN DISH

Chestnut Mushrooms 200g, 79c

Portebello Mushrooms 300g, €1.99

Oregano 11g, 49c

Fresh thyme, €1.19

Italian Chopped Tomatoes x 2 cans, €2.70

Feta Cheese 200g, €1.29

Mature Cheddar Cheese 200g, €2.30

Organic Greek Yogurt 500g, €2.69

Free range Eggs half dozen, €2.20

Total: €15.64

DESSERT

Clementines with leaves 800g pack, €2.99

Pears x 6 pieces, €1.79

Star Anise 10g, €2.59

Cinnamon Sticks 13g, €2.96

Total: €10.33

GRAND TOTAL: €25.97

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