How to make delicious vegan Moussaka. Much like Italian cookery, Greek cuisine is entrenched in history. It is lovingly prepared and enjoyed with such gusto that visitors to Greece cannot help but be entranced by their simple, delicious meals.
In a hot country like Greece, the climate dictates much of the food so there are cooling yogurt drinks, spiked with fresh or dried mint to sooth, fresh salads made with sun-ripened tomatoes, thirst-quenching watermelon and salty feta. Desserts come in the form of rosewater drenched cakes or multi-layered pastries like Baklava.
Possibly the most famous Greek dish is Moussaka. Once a mainstay of 1970s restaurants, the dish is rarely seen over here nowadays, except as a ready-meal in your local supermarket freezers, relegated to that regretful footnote in British cuisine known as “out of fashion”, along with Arctic Roll, Lasagne and Melon Balls.
What is Moussaka?
Moussaka (from the Arabic musaqqaa meaning “chilled”) is a many strata-ed dish, with complex flavours running throughout. The ‘meat’ sauce layer, heavily seasoned with Allspice, Cinnamon andHoney, yet none of these strong spices are overwhelming. The result is, conversely, deeply savoury and would work as a wonderful ragu with pasta if you didn’t want to go to all the trouble of making the Moussaka.
Other than the apple pie spices, what is unusual about Moussaka is that it should be served, like revenge, lukewarm or even completely chilled (hence the origins of the name). In fact, it makes total sense. All the flavours vie for attention when eaten straight out of the oven, when cool, they start to mingle and meld in the most delightful way – a true meeting of minds, or at least, ingredients.
And what ingredients are in a vegan Moussaka?
Well, for those of you unlucky enough never to have been to Greece (that’s me too!) and/or try Moussaka, it is notable for its additional layers of fried aubergine and slices of boiled potatoes.
And then there’s that wonderful, soufflé-like cheeze sauce topping, the creamy blandness of which ties all the other ingredients together. Traditionally stuffed with Gruyere or Mozzarella, I have replaced the dairy sauce with my favourite non-dairy cheese sauce, made from Coconut Milk.
Now, you’re correct when you think that this is a slightly labour intensive dish. But it is well worth the effort and it is certainly best prepared at least the day beforehand, the ragu can be made several days ahead.
Also, it is versatile. No aubergines (eggplant) in the store? Then use courgettes (zucchini). You can omit the potato layer if you’re not too keen. You can make a colourful dish by layering potatoes, courgette, aubergine AND the ragu, or you can keep it simple. As with Lasagne, you must make this to suit your time-schedule but most importantly, your palate.
How do you make a Vegan Bechamel Sauce?
It’s really quite simple. Heat up the coconut milk (canned, not fresh), then add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until thickened. It is so much easier and you will not get the lumps that you might in a regular white sauce.
This Bechamel is quite different to a traditional one. It doesn’t use flour and butter as its base, nor does it use milk.
The thickening agents come from Agar powder and some Tapioca Flour (although you could use cornflour/cornstarch instead).
It is flavoured with the ubiquitous vegan cheeseifier (not a real word), Nutritional Yeast.
- large oval Baking Dish
- 1 cup TVP soaked in 100ml water
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Onion large, finely sliced
- 2 Cloves Garlic finely sliced
- 14 oz Tomatoes can
- 150 ml Red Wine
- 1 tbsp Dried Oregano
- ½ tsp Brown Rice Syrup
- 2 tsp Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Allspice
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 Eggplant cut into slices or 3 zucchini, cut into slices
- 300 g New Potatoes peeled, cut into slices and cooked until almost tender
- Use a combination of all three of the above using 1 eggplant, 2 zucchini and 200g Potatoes
- 1 14oz Coconut milk can, full fat
- 1 tsp Coconut vinegar
- 1 tsp Agar powder
- 1 tbsp Tapioca Flour dissolved in 1 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Make the Ragu
- Heat the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan. Gently saute the onion until soft, then add the rehydrated TVP, saving the soaking liquer for later.
- Pour over the red wine.
- Once the red wine has reduced by half, sprinkle over the honey, cinnamon, allspice and oregano and season with salt and pepper.
- Pour over the reserved stock and tinned tomatoes and leave the sauce to simmer for at least half an hour or until thickened and slightly reduced. Your sauce will be a rich, mahogany colour. Taste for seasoning, does it need more cinnamon? More salt? Remove from the heat and leave to one side.
Prepare the Vegetables
- Heat about 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan until really hot, then fry off the slices of aubergine or courgette until golden on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper.
Make the Bechamel Sauce
- Place the coconut milk into a small saucepan and whisk over medium heat. Add the coconut vinegar, salt, agar and white pepper. Whisk briskly until it comes to a small boil. Remove from heat and add the tapioca flour/water mixture and the nooch. Whisk until well combined. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 180c.
- Place a layer of potatoes in the bottom of your baking dish, then a layer of ragu, then aubergine/courgettes, then some of the Bechamel sauce.
- Repeat, ensuring you end with the Bechamel sauce.
- Grate some Vegan Parmesan over the top and bake, uncovered for about 45 minutes, until the top is puffy and golden.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.
- Serve with a crisp salad and a rustic loaf of bread.
Loved this Moussaka? Try my perfect vegan Shepherds Pie recipe!