Nick’s Rustic Vegan Moussaka

During the last two months of the COVID related lockdown period, I have been spending some time in the kitchen. I enjoy cooking and find it a theraputic and healing outlet. One of my favourite dishes is the famous Eastern Mediterranean dish moussaka. Making moussaka is a veritable treat and worth the effort. It is one of my favourite foods and my plant-based version of this dish is very filling and healthy. When I first made the original meat version of this dish, I followed a recipe on YouTube by the Greek chef Akis Petretzikis. I like his recipe since I find it rather easy to follow. What’s more, he bakes the aubergines, rather than fries them in oil, which I think is a much healthier alternative. I have incorporated some methods and elements of his recipe to this recipe and of course I have brought my own twist to this delicious dish.

In the original classic moussaka recipe, ground beef is used for the mince. Instead of ground beef, I use lentils. I also add some additional flavours to the mince by using cumin seeds and ground paprika.

The béchamel sauce is normally made using butter, milk and egg yolk. For my recipe, the béchamel sauce is completely plant-based and doesn’t include any dairy products or eggs. My version of the sauce is made simply by using extra virgin olive oil, plain flour and soya milk plus ground nutmeg, salt and ground black pepper for taste and flavours.

Lastly, for the first layer of the dish, I have added sweet sliced potatoes to go with the standard sliced potatoes.



1 large potato
1 large sweet potato
1 red onion
1 large aubergine
2 medium sized courgettes
Fresh or dried thyme
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper

For the mince:

2 cans of lentils (or cooked lentils)
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 generous tablespoons of tomato paste
1 red onion (chopped)
3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
Vegetable oil
Cumin seeds
Ground paprika
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

For the creamy béchamel sauce:

1 litre of soya milk
Plain Flour
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground nutmeg
Salt and ground black pepper to taste



1) Grease well a normal sized baking dish with oil.

2) Peel and thinly slice 1 large ordinary potato and 1 large sweet potato. Then peel and chop one red onion. Next put the sliced potatoes and chopped red onion into a bowl and drizzle them in extra virgin olive oil and add salt, ground black pepper and fresh or dried thyme.

3) Transfer the potatoes and onion mixture into the baking dish and evenly spread out.



The first layer of sliced potatoes and chopped onions before entering the oven 


4) Preheat an oven to 200 degrees Celsius and put the baking dish inside for 20 minutes.

5) Whilst the potatoes and onions are cooking, finely and thinly slice the aubergine. Then put the cut slices into the bowl and generously drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and add salt, ground black pepper and fresh or dried thyme.

6) During the remainder of the time, as the potatoes and onions continue to cook, proceed to finely slice the two courgettes.

7) After 20 minutes remove the baking dish from the oven.

8) Then add to the dish, over the cooked potatoes and onions, the second layer of the sliced aubergines.



The second layer of the sliced aubergines


9) Return the baking dish to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.

10) Whilst that is cooking, transfer the sliced courgettes into the bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and add salt, pepper and thyme before mixing well.

11) Then for the rest of the time, before taking out the dish again, heat some vegetable oil in a wide and deep pan. Add a sprinkling of cumin seeds to the cooking oil. Then proceed to add the chopped red onion and garlic cloves  to the pan and cook on a reasonably high heat for a few minutes.

12) Turn down the heat and add a generous tablespoon of paprika and mix well.

13) Next, add the lentils and two generous tablespoons of tomato paste and mix it thoroughly into the lentils.

14) Then add and stir in the chopped tomatoes.



The lentil mince mix of the dish


15) Add salt and ground black pepper to taste. Keep the lentil mince mix on a very low flame stirring occasionally.

15) By now, the potatoes, onions and aubergines should be ready to take out of the oven.

16) Once the baking dish is out of the oven, add the sliced courgettes over the aubergines and then return the baking dish to the oven and cook for 10 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.



The third layer comprising of the sliced courgettes


17) As the courgettes and other vegetables cook, heat a good amount of extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan. As the oil cooks, slowly add small teespoons of plain flour to the oil and mix well and thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Once the mixture becomes like a ball of sticky dough, slowly add a little of the soya milk to the mixture and mix well. Keep repeating this until you end up with a silky textured and creamy-like sauce.

18) Next, add salt and pepper to taste followed by a generous sprinkling of ground nutmeg to further enhance the flavour.



The béchamel should have a silky and creamy texture


19) Once the béchamel sauce is ready, add a couple of generous tablespoons of the sauce to the lentil mince mix and stir in well.

20) When the courgettes are ready, take the baking dish out of the oven.

21) Transfer the whole lentil mix from the pan and smother over the courgettes in the dish.



The fourth layer is made up of the lentil mince mix



The plant based béchamel sauce makes up the final layer 


22) Next, scoop all the béchamel from the saucepan and cover over the lentils in the dish.

23) Finally return the baking dish to the oven and cook for 30 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius. Once the 30 minutes have elapsed, the moussaka should be ready to serve.




Recipe and photos by Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

The Cookbook Which Will Change Your Opinion On Vegan Food



Peace and Parsnips by Lee Watson is an astonishing book bursting with delicious and highly innovative recipes. For me this is more than just a standard vegan cookbook. Vegan food is still quite misunderstood (although this has been changing dramatically in just the last few years), which is a shame and sadly there are still the same old tired cliches being thrown around. Unfortunately there still exists a contingent of people who give Veganism a bad name and so the stereotypes continue.

Peace and Parsnips smashes all these stereotypes and preconceived notions to smithereens. Where it really excels is in presenting vegan food in an exciting, adventurous and interesting way. And it is a cookbook with attitude, which is refreshing as most cookbooks can be a dull and bland experience. If you are a fan of Anthony Bourdain, then you will love this book. And like Bourdain, Watson has travelled extensively around the world and this can be seen clearly in the book. He also has a fantastic blog called the Beach House Kitchen, which contains hundreds of delicious vegan recipes as well as lots of great photos from his world travels.

This is a global cookbook with an extraordinary vegan twist on world dishes. It is a compendium of awesomely healthy and tasty recipes for everyone, not solely vegans. I am a non-vegan yet from time to time I like to have good and tasty no-nonsense food, which is meat and diary free. This book has been perfect for me in this respect.

Some of the recipes are truly off the wall. The veggie burger and falafel recipes are top notch. The Portobello Pecan Burger with Roasted Pumpkin Wedges recipe is a winner as is the Chickpea, Squash and Apricot Burgers with a Red Onion, Orange and Black Olive Salad recipe (takes falafels to another level).



                                    The Portobello Pecan Burger with Roasted Pumpkin Wedges


I am a huge fan of Indian/South Asian cuisine and this book doesn’t disappoint. The ‘Curries’ section contains some very exotic, hearty and delicious curry recipes. The Keralan Coconut and Vegetable Curry with Pineapple and Watermelon Salad is a truly exquisite and wonderfully tasty south Indian dish. I also highly rate the Kashmiri Turnip and Spinach Curry with Beetroot Raita and the Pakistani Pumpkin and Beetroot Bhuna with Banana and Lime Raita; just those names alone are enough to wet anyone’s appetite!



                Keralan Coconut and Vegetable Curry with Pineapple and Watermelon Salad


The dessert section (‘Sweet Treats’) of this book is a veritable delight. Particular favourites are the Raw Spiced Apple and Date Pie (an amazingly tasty and inventive raw dessert consisting of apples, dates and cashews and walnuts), the vegan Choc and Beet brownies (the richest and most delicious brownies I’ve ever tasted), and the Brazil Nut and Chocolate Spelt Cookies (delicious and very easy to make. Its also a brilliant recipe if you don’t have lots of free time to cook and would make a great and highly appreciated treats for friends and family members).



                                                                     Choc and Beet Brownies


This is an outstanding cookbook and a real labour of love. The writing, photographs and general layout of the book are first class and would make a wonderful companion for anyone with even just a passing interest in vegan cuisine. More importantly, I feel that once you have immersed yourself in this beautiful book and given some of the many exciting recipes a whirl, you will begin to look at vegan food in a completely different way. Indispensable.


by Nicholas Peart

3rd June 2016

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Bocca Dolce Cafe: Sensational Vegan Food In A Paradisiacal Setting


The interior of the Bocca Dolce Cafe


The Bocca Dolce Cafe is a paradise of a place situated in the beautiful Quarry Lake Estate around the Wittedrift area close to Plettenberg Bay and planted firmly on the lush and infamous Garden Route in South Africa. The heavenly location alone is enough to warrant a visit. I am also told that they have excellent coffee, which I completely believe judging by what I’ve seen on my few forays over there. Sadly for me, I am not a coffee drinker.



The beautiful surroundings


But for me it’s not about the beautiful location (yet it’s certainly a bonus) or the excellent coffee. My primary reason for visiting (and returning) is the divine, delicious and generous weekend vegan buffet they serve up every Saturday and Sunday from 1pm. I suppose one could split this abundant and tasty vegan buffet into three categories; Salads, Mains and Desserts.

The salads alone are a meal in itself with about 10-12 different selections to choose from. The selections change each time yet my personal favourites are the curried potato salad, the chick pea salad, the beetroot salad, the spinach, broccoli and bean concoction and, last but not least, the sublime humus. With such a selection I often run the risk of not leaving any space for the mains or desserts.



My plate loaded up with some delicious salad selections


Now for the mains. The highlights for me are the vegan lasaña and the vegan curry. Both are excellent and very tasty. There is also a table loaded with a grand selection of different and exotic vegan snacks. I particularly love the vegan satay kebabs.



Delicious and exotic vegan snacks


Finally the deserts. It would be a crime not to leave any space for those (easily done). Like the salads, the dessert selections change each time. On my last visit I got very lucky with the desserts to the point they became the highlight of the buffet that day. That day some of the dessert selections included a sensational vegan trifle, a very rich and delicious vegan chocolate and date cake, and a good no-nonsense vegan apple crumble. I have a weakness for trifle and I was very impressed with the textures, flavours and even creaminess of it all made a la vegan.



Exquisite vegan desserts


If you can’t make the weekend buffet the salad buffet is available on the weekdays.

The Bocca Dolce Cafe is a special place. The exceptional food notwithstanding, it offers a unique and unforgettable experience. The place is a real labour of love designed and created very tastefully with beautiful furniture and artworks on the wall by local artists. I highly recommend dropping by if you are in the area.

by Nicholas Peart

16th May 2016

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