My Magical Moussaka: Vegan or meat
There are so many tasty vegan dishes in Egyptian cuisine because of the Coptic community, which has numerous vegan fasts throughout the year. While moussaka is commonly a meat dish around the world, in Egypt, it is a vegan staple during those fasts. It usually doesn’t include bechamel in general, like it does in Greek cuisine, so the only other animal product is the mince, which in my opinion, is not missed at all if left out.
Now, I didn’t much like this dish growing up, but when I started cooking, I started playing around with it until I got it the way I liked. My mom probably wouldn’t approve of this recipe, but honestly, I like mine better. 😉 The traditional method is quite laborious because of aubergines having a slight bitterness that you need to remove. My mom would slice them, salt them and leave them out in the sun for a bit, which would draw out the extra water and bitterness. I skipped this step. I instead, baked it in the oven, skin on and by mistake, left it in a little too long. It didn’t burn but it was pushed far. What resulted was a smoky and caramelised flavour. No bitterness. Now, I don’t know if this makes any scientific sense, but I’ve made it like that every time since and it’s been amazing every time!
3 large aubergines
2 green or red bell peppers
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
1 70g can of tomato paste
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
For meat option: 400g mince meat
Optional extras: handful of raisins and roasted almonds
- Preheat oven to 200°C.
- Slice aubergines into round discs of about 2 cm thickness, keep the skin on. Lay them in a single layer in a baking tray and coat them in some olive oil. When the oven is hot, place them in for about 40-45 minutes. You want them to roast them quite long to get a nice caramelised flavour. They should be a bit brown in the centre the skin to shrivel slightly.
- Meanwhile work on the sauce. Roughly chop onion and peppers.
- Saute onion and peppers in a deep pan until slightly browned.
- Add in the spices and the tomato paste. Fry this all together for about 2 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of water and the tin of chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
- Now you will assemble the layers of the moussaka in an oven dish. One layer of aubergines in the bottom, followed with half the sauce, followed by the rest of the aubergines on top and finally the remaining sauce. A trick I like to do at this stage is to add a handful of raisins and almonds to the middle layer of sauce. I like a bit of sweetness and crunch, but that’s completely up to you.
- Bake at 200°C for 45 minutes.
Enjoy with white rice.