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Aubergine and Lentil Moussaka

Restaurant: The Natural Cookery School
Serves: 6
Prep / cook time 1 hour 25 mins

This recipe is kindly provided by Erin Baker of the Naural Cookery School in Nailsworth.

“A lot of people avoid cooking with aubergines due to dislike of texture, unfamiliarity or thinking that they need to salt before use.  It is true that many recipes used to call for salting the aubergine before using. There are a couple of reasons for this: the first being to remove bitterness.

“It’s my understanding that as clever humans, we have bred the bitterness out of modern aubergines and the cultivated aubergines available today are not as bitter as they used to be. The second common reason people suggest salting aubergines is to remove moisture. Some chefs recommended this delivers a better final outcome. I left behind salting aubergines decades ago and have never looked back.

“Lentils provide a great replacement for mince in this recipe.  I have chosen French puy lentils to use in this dish as they provide a wonderful texture and add a lovely flavour. Green or brown lentils could also be used.”

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INGREDIENTS

For the filling

4 medium or 3 large aubergines, sliced

3 tbsp olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

150g Puy lentils

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 red pepper, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tbsp tomato puree

400g tin chopped tomatoes

150ml red wine

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp oregano

3 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

For the topping

250g ricotta

250g Greek-style yoghurt

3 free-range eggs

freshly grated nutmeg

salt and freshly ground black pepper

50g freshly grated hard Italian cheese

METHOD

1

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Slice the aubergines lengthways into ½ cm (¼ inch) slices, and place on baking trays. Brush both sides with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast until golden and floppy, about 15-20 minutes. This can be done in batches, on the barbeque or under the grill.

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2

Put the lentils in a saucepan, cover with water – about 5cm (2.5 inch) above the lentils. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and rinse.

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3

Meanwhile, in a medium size saucepan, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil, add the onion and pepper and sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and tomato puree, stir to coat the vegetables, then continue to sauté for a further 4-5 minutes. Cooking the tomato puree off enhances the flavour and cooks out any bitterness.

4

Add the chopped tomatoes, red wine, cinnamon and oregano and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add the cooked lentils to the mixture and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes, or until warmed through. Add the fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper.

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5

For the topping, in a bowl, beat together the ricotta, Greek-style yoghurt, eggs and grated nutmeg until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

6

Arrange a third of the aubergines in the base of a medium size oven proof dish, and top with half the lentil mixture. Repeat, then finish with a final layer of aubergine, and top with the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle over the grated cheese. Bake at 200°C/Gas Mark 6 for about 30-45 minutes until well browned, leaving to set for 10 minutes before serving.

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TO SERVE

Serve with a crisp green salad and a hunk of freshly baked sourdough from La Parisienne

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Erin Baker runs the Natural Cookery School in Nailsworth. The Natural Cookery School’s approach to cooking uses foods that are minimally processed; whole grains, fresh local produce and minimally refined sugars.
Erin creates wonderful takeaway feasts, including Meat-Free Mondays, and offers outdoor catering for events. She also run day and residential cookery courses at the Natural Cookery School.

For more natural recipes like this one, why not take a look at Erin’s book, The Veg Table.