Famous the world over, moussaka’s layers of rich meat ragù, potato and aubergine, topped with a white sauce, are a labour of love to create, but worth the eff ort. My vegetarian version is just as delicious and I serve it with a simply dressed green salad. The contrast of sharp vinaigrette with a forkful of creamy moussaka always reminds me of dinner at my mum and dad’s.
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/400°F/Gas 6.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 5-mm thick slices. Cut the aubergines and courgettes into 1-cm thick slices.
Line a tray with paper towels. Heat a splash of oil in a large frying
pan set over a medium heat. Add the potato, aubergine and courgette slices in batches and fry until golden and just cooked through, then transfer to the paper towel-lined tray to drain. Arrange a layer of potato slices in the baking dish, and
season with a pinch of oregano and a few grinds of black pepper. Repeat with a layer of aubergine and finally courgette, again adding oregano and seasoning between each layer.
To make the ragù, add a little oil to a medium saucepan and set over a high heat. Add the mushrooms and fry for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally; you want these deeply caramel coloured. Turn down the heat and add the onion and cook through for another 5 minutes until it has softened and coloured. Add the
garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the lentils, tomato purée, parsley, cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano and sugar. Add about 60 ml of water and simmer, uncovered, for 10–15 minutes until the ragù is rich and thick. Spoon this over the layered vegetables, levelling the surface with the back of the spoon.
To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan set over a low-medium heat. Add the flour and stir continuously until a paste forms and cook this for 2 minutes. Add the milk to the pan gradually, whisking as you go, until the sauce has thickened and is smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Gently pour the sauce over the ragù layer, again smoothing out the surface with the back of a spoon. Scatter the grated cheese over the top and cook into the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Leave to rest for 15 minutes before serving with a simply dressed green salad.
This recipe is extracted from Rustica by Theo Michaels, published by Ryland Peters & Small (£16.99) Photography by Mowie Kay © Ryland Peters & Small
Love Mediterranean food? Visit our Greek recipes or Mediterranean recipes sections, or try some of Theo Michaels' other recipes, including avgolemono soup and flourless orange and almond cake. We also have a wide range of vegetarian recipes.