Our next meal inspired from travels around the world for this month is Lebanese Moussaka. This amazing, lush dish has been inspired by my friend Ross, the fiancé of a very dear yoga friend, whom I bonded with over preparing meals (no surprise really if you know my penchant for looking into people’s cooking pots wherever I am!) for her hen do. Ross was kind enough to prepare a whole bunch of food for us hens and then leave on the Friday evening for all of us to celebrate, not even having the opportunity to join in the feast!!! And feast we did! At this point I should tell you that if Ross had not become a genius mathematician, he would have been a celebrity chef. One of the things I learned about him when I got to know him for what felt for the first time that weekend (seeing that I had the opportunity to briefly meet him over a cup of tea in NY the year before)… but I digress!
One of the amazing dishes that Ross had made is this Lebanese Moussaka which I tweaked ever so slightly to add in a few extra proteins by increasing the chickpea to aubergine ratio. From a clean eating perspective the recipe itself is pretty amazing, so there was not much else to do. You can complement it by serving it with whole grains, some green beans or a just with a big hand full of good old leafy greens, depending on your appetite!
You will notice that this is one of the very few recipes where I am actually using olive oil for cooking. Olive oil is not an oil favourable for heating up, particularly at high temperatures as it creates free radicals easily, but for this recipe it is just a must. It adds SO much extra flavour that I just could not exchange it with something else. Plus, it totally helps that the temperatures to cook the Moussaka are never beyond medium high. I have also adapted the recipe slightly in that I add some of the olive oil right at the end, after cooking, to preserve some of the goodness that comes with extra virgin cold pressed oils. So get on this, this is comfort food on a completely new level!
PS: if you are in Brussels and have not found pomegranate molasses yet, don’t despair. I have not either. I have successfully used a blackcurrant syrup as a replacement which I found in one of the Bio-Shops, although if you do find pomegranate molasses anywhere, give me a SHOUT. It does add an extra layer of flavour depth to the dish, so I would quite like to have it back on my shelves! 😉
Dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, vegan.
Serve with: grain of your choice, green beans, a handful of green leaves.
– 8 tbsp olive oil
– 1 large onion, finely chopped
– 6 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 large aubergine (approx. 400g, sliced in 0.5 cm slices)
– 1 jar of chickpeas (or 150g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water with 1 tbsp of vinegar, rinsed and cooked for 1 hour in fresh water)
– ~450 g passata (about 2/3 of a bottle)
– 1 ½ – 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
– ¾ tsp cinnamon
– 1 tsp allspice (or 4-spice here in Belgium)
– 1 tsp thyme
– ¼ tsp salt (or more, to taste)
– ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper (or more, to taste)
– Coriander, chopped (to serve, optional)
- Preheat the oven at 150°C.
- Fry the diced onions in 2 tbsp olive oil at medium heat until they are soft and glassy (about 10-15 minutes). Add in minced garlic and fry for another 5 minutes or so.
- Add in the spices, chickpeas and passata and simmer whilst preparing the aubergine. Taste and add more spices if needed. The tomato sauce needs to be quite flavoursome, as it will be further diluted by the addition of the so far unflavoured chickpeas and later on the aubergines!
- Whilst the onions fry, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil at a medium to high heat in a separate pan and fry the aubergine slices in batches adding a new tbsp of olive oil into the pan with each new batch of sliced aubergine to go in. There is no need to fry the aubergine until completely soft, as it will finish baking in the oven. The main thing is that it turns slightly brown to get the fried flavour.
- Bring it all together: in an oven proof dish, layer the aubergines on the bottom, pour over some of the chickpea tomato mixture and keep layering until you have used up all of the aubergines finishing off with a good layer of chickpea and tomato mixture. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes.
- Whilst the moussaka bakes prepare any side dishes you’d like to go with the meal.