Vegan ‘Moussaka’

While it barely resembles a moussaka at all, this recipe is a crowd pleaser, and “fake meat layered casserole in the style of moussaka” isn’t very catchy. Instead of a thick béchamel layer on top like a traditional moussaka, this recipe is topped with creamy potatoes (like a Shepherd’s pie) but cooks up to a similar texture as béchamel would.

This recipe is written out in pieces so that each layer of the dish can be cooked either simultaneously or separately, ahead of time. Everything except the mashed potatoes can be cooked ahead of time. This is a rather involved recipe, but it makes a very hearty main dish. You could also add a layer of fried or baked eggplant for a more authentic dish.

You can use however many of these layers you want in your final product. I put down a layer of matzah for the “crust” which worked beautifully (as it was served during passover) but store-bought puff pastry, bread crumbs, or even toast would make a nice  bottom layer once covered with the sauce. Enjoy! Let me know if you try it out.

The “meat”

  • 1 cup dry TVP crumbles
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • pinch of garlic powder
  • 2 tbs cooking oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 200 g tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp “chicken spice”
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp za’atar
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 340 g chick peas (1 can)
  • 2 tbs techina

Combine TVP crumbles, cumin, paprika, and garlic powder in a bowl. Pour 3 cups of boiling vegetable broth over the crumbles and mix well. Let it sit for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then. Pour into a mesh strainer and let it drain. Squeeze excess water after the hydrated TVP has cooled, but do not rinse.

Over medium heat, warm cooking oil in a heavy pot. Add the chopped onions and bay leaf, stirring and cooking until the onions are soft and beginning to brown. Add in the garlic and TVP crumbles and cook for five minutes until the TVP begins to brown, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. Pour in the tomato paste and broth and add the remaining spices. Mix well, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, and spices. Stir in the chick peas and techina. Cover on low heat until ready to assemble the dish.

The tomato sauce

This tomato sauce keeps the layers of the moussaka moist during cooking and compliments the flavors of the “meat” layer.

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 100 g tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 800 g crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp za’atar
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Heat 2 tbs oil over medium heat in a saucepan and add the onions and bay leaf. Stir and cook until the onions are softened and becoming translucent. Aim for 10 minutes without scorching. Add the garlic and cook for another minute before combining the tomato paste and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, stirring, and add in the tomatoes and spices. Return to a boil, turn heat down to low, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring from time to time and checking on the consistency. Add water as needed. Salt and pepper to taste.

The mashed potatoes

  • 4 white potatoes, cubed
  • 2 tbs vegan butter
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 cup vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

Boil the cubed potatoes in salted water until very soft. Drain and mash, adding the butter, green onions, and vegetable broth until the desired consistency. Finish with an immersion blender. To top the casserole, the potatoes should be very smooth and creamy enough to pour on top, but not liquid. Salt and pepper to taste.

The roasted tofu

  • 1/2 kilo of tofu, sliced into 1/3” thick pieces
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp za’atar
  • 1 tsp paprika (sweet or smoked)
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • freshly cracked pepper

Combine all the marinade ingredients into a bowl or rectangular dish. Cover the tofu and arrange so that it can sit for at least 2 hours in the spices. (This can also last overnight in the refrigerator) Lightly grease a cookie sheet and bake at 150 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes on each side.

Assembling the dish

I put a thin layer of tomato sauce down on top of matzah for the foundational layer, as this dish was served during passover, but you could skip that or use pasta or puff pastry as the “crust.” Either way, make sure the “crust” layer is moistened with sauce and/or meat.

Next put a layer of the roasted tofu, cover with more sauce, and then add the TVP meat. From here you can either repeat layers or make them thicker and then top with the creamy potatoes.

Cook in the oven at 175 Celsius (350 F) for one hour, until the potatoes are golden.

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