This was very nearly vegan. And then I sprinkled some parmesan on it and then it wasn’t even vegetarian. This bothers me a fair bit but sometimes that’s just how it goes. Now, if you are a veggie then go get yourself some of that Italian hard cheese made without animal rennet. If you’re vegan then get yourself some Redwood Parmy or similar (not that I’ve ever tried it but I’ve heard it’s THE vegan parmesan substitute). You could just leave it off and I’m sure you’d like this well enough. But, although the moussaka was lovely without cheese it was OUTSTANDING with it. When I first tasted it from the oven I thought, “this is nice but it could do with something” and that something was parmesan. Also, if you’re vegetarian, why would you make a dairy-free bechamel? You don’t have to after all. Well, you know I’m avoiding lactose, so the dairy-free bechamel was almost a given for me (I could have used lactofree milk but I planned for this to be vegan, and then I went parmesan crazy – sighs). There’s miniscule amounts of lactose in parmesan, due to the method used to make it, so I can just bung it on. It is a mixed up, crazy world when I cook. Whatever you decide to use you should make a version of this. I received some lovely graffiti aubergines in the veg box, and I wanted something that when cooked would show off the pretty stripes. That didn’t work out so well, but it still looked good I think. I’m also going to share my top tip for reducing the fat in a dish like this. Steam your aubergine slices. It is true you won’t get the pretty charred bands you get with griddling but you do get lovely soft aubergine for layering that hasn’t soaked up a pint of oil. Also, as this recipe calls for making a cashew cream it is probably worth mentioning that I’ve managed to achieve a very smooth cream using a combination of a food processor followed by a stick blender. Until I win the lottery and get that Vitamix, it’ll do me.
Prep time 20 minutes Cook time 30 minutes Makes 4 adult servings
You’ll need a steamer capable of holding all the aubergine slices, or add enough time to cook them in batches. You’ll also need a high power blender, or a food processor and a stick blender. Preheat the oven to 190ºC fan assisted.
- 1 medium aubergine, or 2 graffiti aubergines (they are quite small), sliced into ½” rounds
- 60g quinoa
- 1 small onion, chopped finely
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed + 1 clove garlic, whole
- 120ml water
- 120ml passata
- ¼ tsp sugar
- ½ tsp sriracha
- 1 tbsp fresh basil, thinly sliced
- 35g raw cashews
- 360ml almond milk (I used Alpro)
- 2 tbsp gluten-free flour (I used Doves Farm gluten-free plain flour)
- 2 tbsp dairy-free spread (I used Pure sunflower)
- ½ tsp salt
- freshly grated nutmeg
- black pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp parmesan, vegetarian Italian cheese, or vegan alternative, to serve (optional)
In a small saucepan soften the onion and crushed garlic over a very low heat for about 5 minutes until soft and golden. In the meantime vigorously wash the quinoa in cold water for several minutes to remove the bitter coating. Drain and add to the softened onion and garlic along with 120ml of water. Bring to the boil, cover and turn the heat back down to low, simmering for 15 minutes, or until the water has just evaporated, stirring occasionally. While the quinoa is cooking steam the aubergine slices in the steamer until tender, about 10 minutes. When cooked leave to one side to cool. Now prepare the cashew bechamel. I don’t have a high power liquidizer so I use this two step approach instead. First whiz the cashews in a food processor until crumbed. Then add 120ml of almond milk and the garlic clove and process until as smooth as possible. This takes my processor a few minutes. Now transfer the liquid to a suitable container (I use a jug) and process it with a stick blender until very smooth. In a medium saucepan melt the dairy-free spread and add the gluten-free flour. Gradually add the cashew cream until you’ve incorporated it all and the sauce thickens. Add the remaining almond milk and season with the salt and some freshly grated nutmeg (about an sixteenth of a whole). Remove from the heat and put to one side. When the quinoa is cooked add the passata, sugar, sriracha and fresh basil. Stir through over a medium heat to warm through and then season. Now, in a suitable sized ovenproof dish create a layer with half the aubergine slices. Spoon over the quinoa mixture. Use the remaining aubergine rounds to create another layer, then spoon over the cashew bechamel. Bake in the oven until the top is nicely browned (about 25-30 minutes). Remove from the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes to set slightly. Serve in portions with finely grated parmesan, or equivalent, sprinkled over the top if desired.