P goes mountaineering with a club but sometimes I think it should be called an eating club with a bit of walking attached. Originally I was going to go too, and was asked to make a white fish main course for 11. My mind went blank. It had to survive a journey up the M6; a day in a fridge; I wasn’t allowed to use oily fish or seafood………… I made vegetarian moussaka instead.
I sent up all the ingredients for a Greek salad to go with, but at home, we sometimes just have it with a green salad. P made Nigella’s red plum and amaretti crumble for pudding, taking the cooked plums and the crumble up separately in two plastic boxes ready to combine. A good day’s walking to be had with dinner all ready just to bung in the oven on returning.
The secret of a good moussaka is to cook the aubergines thoroughly so they are soft and yielding and to do enough for two layers of them in the final dish. I do them in the oven as that way, they don’t get greasy. Aubergines suck up oil frighteningly. The topping of ricotta and eggs is quick to do, but sometimes I do a thick flavoured Bechamel sauce instead and then add the eggs to make it more solid. This serves 6 but it freezes well so sometimes I freeze half of it after cooking.
- 1 tbsp light olive oil or sunflower oil
- One medium onion, chopped (150g)
- One carrot, chopped
- One large stick celery, chopped (70g)
- Two cloves garlic, crushed
- 150g Puy type lentils (I use ones from Waitrose that look like Puy but are not from that area of France)
- Tbsp tomato purée
- 700ml vegetable stock eg Marigold
- Tsp oregano or thyme
- 100g sliced mushrooms (optional).
- More olive oil for baking trays, ( 2 -3 tbsps
- 3 large aubergines, ( or 4 small ones) cut into 1cm slices
- Good grating of nutmeg
- 3 eggs
- 250g ricotta ( one tub)
- 75g Gran Padano or Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Heat a tbsp light olive oil in a casserole dish and cook the onion, carrot, and celery gently together in a pan until soft but not coloured (about 7 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another three minutes.
- Add the lentils, tomato puree, thyme and stock and simmer for 30 -40 mins until the lentils are soft. You need them quite squidgy and sometimes I give them a little mash.
- Add 100g mushrooms and they will cook in the residual heat.Check seasoning
- Drizzle two baking trays with a light olive oil and spread the aubergines in the tray, and then sprinkle with more oil and season.
- Cook in oven 180C, gas mark 4 for 30-40 mins, turning the aubergines over half way through until they are golden brown and really soft.
- Make the topping by mixing the ricotta, eggs, a grating of nutmeg, salt and pepper and half the cheese together
- Put half the lentil mixture into an ovenproof dish, then cover with a layer of aubergines. Then repeat the process. Spread over the topping and top with the remaining cheese.
- Cook at 180C, gas mark 4 for 30 mins until the top is nicely golden. If you are cooking it straight from the fridge, it may need longer.