|Smooth tofu custard, melt-in-the-mouth potato, hearty veg and succulent aubergine (eggplant): moussaka has it all!|
To mark the election of a new government in Greece, with the fresh hope this brings to the people, here’s a veganised dish which evokes happier times of abundance; moussaka. The stuff of 70s dinner parties, moussaka is actually known in different variations all over the Balkan peninsula, Turkey and the Middle East. Pondering on the ingredients and structure of modern Greek moussaka, I realised it is actually a kind of southern European shepherds’ pie; meat and veg on the bottom, potato on the top. Greek shepherds…hmmm… maybe a new name for this dish..?
What’s the link between this painting and the moussaka? (The answer is at the end of the post.)
When you see the long list of ingredients and the instructions you may feel a little daunted: stick with us! It’s actually not that time consuming to make if you do everything in the right order and there are no fussy techniques like roux sauce to master. If you don’t have fresh rosemary, thyme or oregano would be brilliant instead, and even more Greek. If you want to make it soya free, then use our nut-based cheeze sauce for the topping instead of tofu and replace the miso with yeast extract if necessary. Despite all the mung beans it’s quite light and goes well with salad, and if you don’t fancy mung beans, green or puy lentils would be great too.
Serves about 8 large portions:
tofu made with 2 litres of soya milk and drained but not pressed
600ml soya milk*
2 tabs yeast flakes
1/2 tsp seasalt
2 tabs lemon juice
*Try replacing some or all of this with live soya yoghurt; you may also need less lemon.
- Throw everything into your blender.
- Adjust seasonings if you need to.
- Set aside.
775-800g potatoes, unpeeled
- Slice the potatoes into scallops of about 3mm in thickness.
- Steam carefully until completely cooked through, using a minimum of water so that it is all absorbed. (This keeps the vitamins in.) Handle carefully so as not to break them up.
- Set aside to cool.
1kg whole mung beans, cooked
3 cans chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 tsps seasalt
a large pinch of black pepper (optional)
1 tsp paprika
2 heaped tsps mugi miso
1 1/2 tabs mixed herbs (thyme and marjoram are great additions here)
1 scant tsp compound hing
11/2 cups shredded white cabbage
1 tab tamari sauce
a little olive oil for saute-ing
- First, saute the cabbage with the tamari sauce and the hing until soft.
- Over a gentle heat, stir in the tomatoes, mung beans and the rest of the seasonings.
1 1/2 -2 med aubergines
olive oil for grilling
- Cut into 3mm-thick rounds
- brush with olive oil and grill until soft but not overbrowned.
- Set aside.
To assemble and cook:
some sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme
1/2 tsp mixed spice and/ or nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon
- First make the tofu if you need to.
- Prepare and steam the potatoes.
- Prepare and grill the aubergines an lay the slices on the bottom of a large deep roasting tin/ dish.
- Now saute the cabbage in a little olive oil, adding the hing and tamari, to make “onions”.
- Stir in the beans, tomatoes and seasonings.
- Spoon on top of the aubergine layer.
- Lay the potatoes on top of this.
- Make the custard and spread evenly over the potatoes.
- Dot with sprigs of fresh rosemary/ thyme and sprinkles of spice.
- Bake in an oven preheated to 180C until heated through and the custard has set but is not overbrowned.
- This is good served with a mixed salad, or Greek salad without the feta.
Answer: For those of you who recognised the painting as the first version of Poussin’s “Les Bergeres d’Arcadie”, (aka “Et in Arcadia Ego” or “Shepherds of Arcadia”) please note that this does not indicate some arcane, Da Vinci Code-style meaning in our post! Moussaka is Greek shepherds’ pie- get it?
Arcadia has always been seen as a pastoral idyll, a region of Peloponnesia known for its beautiful and fertile landscape. I like to think that all rural areas could one day be idyllic for animals too, if humans didn’t want to eat and exploit them. Maybe the shepherds in the painting are excited because now moussaka has gone vegan they have no more flocks to tend and they can now enjoy growing their own fruit and veg instead?!
What vegan dishes would you compare with what famous paintings?