recipe: red lentil moussaka

IMG_5077Ok, so when I call this recipe ‘Red Lentil Moussaka,’ I know I’m making a stretch. Sure, it may look like tradition Moussaka, and may even smell like tradition Moussaka, but traditional Moussaka it is not. Taking the cue from this inspiring idea, I decided to make a vegan, gluten-free, protein and vegie packed version.

First of all, you could most definitely use aubergine/eggplant instead of zucchini (Adam has an aversion to aubergine – crazy, I know! – so I used zucchini instead). The roasted strips of zucchini I topped with a cinnamon-and-oregano-spiced red lentil and tomato filling (much like a traditional Moussaka filling). Finally, instead of the rich and heavy béchamel, I substituted a soft and delicious puree of cannellini beans. Sprinkled with thyme, and drizzled with olive oil, it is then baked until bubbling.

If I was feeling especially gratuitous, I’d serve this moussaka with a crisp and lemony green salad, but for the gluten-munchers out there, crunchy hot bread would also be great. This dish also has the added bonus of being make-ahead friendly. You could easily prepare everything up to the final stage (i.e. before putting the whole thing in the oven), then cover and place in the fridge until you need it – making preparing it the day before a really great option.

I took this for dinner at my parents’ last Sunday (you can see a few more sneaky photos here), and it was superb. Everything you could want in a moussaka – warming, flavourful, comforting – without any of the heaviness or greasy come-down. Enjoy!

Red Lentil Moussaka

Serves 6

  • 7-8 medium zucchinis or 3 large aubergines/eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 5 mm strips
  • olive oil
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • black pepper

For the filling:

  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 400 g tin of diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cup of dried red lentils, rinsed
  • 600 mL water or stock

For the cannellini bean puree:

  • 3 cups cooked cannellini beans (tinned is ok)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 250 mL water or stock
  • sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Once oven is preheated, arrange zucchini strips onto baking trays in a single layer, drizzle with olive oil and bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until tender.
  2. In a large baking dish, layer roasted zucchini, seasoning to taste as you go.
  3. To prepare the filling, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion, garlic, chilli flakes, oregano, and the cinnamon stick, and gently sauté for 10 minutes, until soft and translucent.
  4. To the onion mixture, add the lentils, tomatoes, and water or stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until lentils are cooked and the filling has thickened.
  5. Remove the cinnamon stick, and pour the filling over the zucchini.
  6. To prepare the puree, place all ingredients into a small (ish) saucepan. Bring to the boil, then remove from heat. Either puree with a stick blender, or in a standing blender or food processor.
  7. Pour the puree over the lentil filling, spreading it over the surface with the back of a spoon.
  8. Sprinkle the puree with the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme, drizzle with olive oil, and also grind black pepper over the top.
  9. At this point, you can cover the whole thing will foil and place in the fridge until needed (remove from fridge 30 minutes before placing in oven).
  10. Or, in your preheated oven (180 degrees C), bake your moussaka for 30-40 minutes, until little bits of the lentil filling have started to bubble up around the edges, and the middle is heated through.
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