Main Dishes

Vegan μουσακάς λαχανικών με κιμά από φακές και μανιτάρια, ελαφρύς, εύκολος, χωρίς λιπαρά - Vegan, oil-free, easy Greek mousaka - Vegan in Athens

Vegan moussaka with lentils and mushrooms – oil-free, easy and delicious

One of the most famous Greek foods is undoubtedly the Greek moussaka, a baked dish with layers of eggplants and potatoes and a meaty sauce between them. This dish is actually of unknown origin as we can find several variations not only in Greece but also in Turkey as well as other countries. However traditional Greek moussaka has a top layer of bechamel sauce, probably an influence by the French cuisine and moreover it is always served hot. But the famous moussaka in fact is a really complicated, heavy dish, since its original recipe requires to fry all the vegetables, to fry and then cook the meat to make the sauce, to cover with a greasy bechamel and eventually to end up with a mountain of dirty utensils and oils all over the kitchen walls, Well I wouldn’t really call it what one would opt to make for dinner! But an oil-free, vegan moussaka is a completely different story! Rich in nutritional value and with a mouthwatering taste thanks to the variety of vegetables we use, light and much easier to prepare, it has become one of the foods we enjoy regularly during spring and summer when eggplants are on their best.

Overall, I need about one hour to prepare it, since I do not fry anything, but I bake the sliced vegetables for a while in the oven – just as long as they need to soften slightly and eliminate some of their moisture. For the sauce I use lentils, fresh ripe tomatoes, fresh mushrooms and finely chopped nuts for an even better texture and taste. Although some might have objections to the way I prepare my vegan “bechamel”, since I do not add any oily substance to my recipe, I am going to say just try it!

As we cherish all summer vegetables, I used a lot of them for my recipe! So my vegan moussaka is made by three layers of vegetables: slices of selected potatoes at the base of the pan, sweet aubergines in the middle and slices of green courgettes on top. Actually we love this vegan moussaka, as it is oil free, the baked vegetables retain all their taste, it’s delicious, it is made much easier and faster than the classic non vegan moussaka and it incorporates the Greek summer in every bite!

Vegan μουσακάς λαχανικών με κιμά από φακές και μανιτάρια, ελαφρύς, εύκολος, χωρίς λιπαρά - Vegan, oil-free, easy Greek mousaka - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients
(for 6-8 large portions)

for the layers of vegetables

  • 1 large or 2 medium potatoes peeled and thinly sliced (0,5 cm)
  • 3-4 large eggplants, sliced
  • 4-5 large zucchini, thinly sliced

for the mushroom and lentil sauce

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, pureed
  • 250 g fresh mushrooms finely chopped (I use oyster mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup white wine (or extra water)
  • 1 red sweet bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 medium ripe tomatoes grated (or blended in a food processor)
  • 1 large carrot coarsely grated
  • 1/2 cup dry lentils
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup raw nuts or seeds, slightly chopped but not powdered (we can use almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds)
  • 1 tsp salt (or according to our taste)
  • 1/2 tsp dried hot chili peppers
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • freshly ground pepper

for the oil free, vegan “bechamel” sauce

  • 4 cups (1 liter) plant based milk, store-bought or homemade without sugar (I like to use unsweetened rice or oat milk)
  • 12 level tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 or 2 vegan bouillon cubes (store-bought or homemade), depending on how salty we like our sauce (I use two!)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • freshly ground nutmeg (optional)

additionally

  • 3-4 handfuls of grated vegan cheese or nutritional yeast (for a 100% oil free recipe)
  • bread crumbs for sprinkling

Method

1. For the vegetable layers: Cut the eggplants into slices of about 1 cm thick. Salt them and leave them aside for about 30 minutes. That way they will become sweeter! Cut the potatoes and zucchini into thin slices about 1/2 cm. To cut even slices, I use the vegetable mandolin slicer.
2. Lay a large baking pan with non stick paper and put the eggplants and the zucchini slices in the pan. It doesn’t matter if they overlap, since you will bake them just enough to soften, so they will not stick together. Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes at 200 ° C. Potatoes do not need to be pre-baked – they will be perfectly cooked by absorbing moisture and flavors from the sauce while you bake your moussaka.
3. For the sauce: In a large and deep pan or in a saucepan, put the onion, garlic and mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes. Add the wine (or extra water), the lentils, pepper, carrot, parsley, tomatoes, season and simmer over low heat for 35-45 minutes until the lentils soften and the sauce thickens. Finally, pour the nuts, mix and turn off the fire.
4. Assembly: Grease a medium-sized deep baking dish (I used a 29x21x6cm) or use a non-stick cookware. At the bottom arrange the potatoes, slightly overlapping each slice with the next so as not to allow any gaps between them. Pour 1/3 of the sauce over the potato layer and spread it evenly with a spoon. Sprinkle with a handful of cheese or nutritional yeast and continue with the next layer. Arrange the baked eggplants, 1/3 of the sauce, vegan cheese and finally the baked zucchini slices, the rest of the sauce and the rest of the vegan cheese.
5. For the vegan bechamel: In a saucepan, add half of the vegan milk along with the vegan bouillon cubes, nutmeg and pepper and stir over medium heat until the cubes completely dissolve. Add the remaining milk in the blender along with the flour and blend for a few seconds until the flour is dissolved and no lumps are present. Once the milk in the pan comes to a boil, pour the flour mixture in the pan and stir continuously, over low to medium, heat with a wooden spoon for 5-10 minutes until a thick cream is formed.
6. Pour the bechamel over the moussaka, sprinkle immediately with a generous amount of bread crumbs and bake at 200 o C for about an hour or until the surface is golden.
7. Allow the moussaka to cool slightly for half an hour and serve hot.

Vegan μουσακάς λαχανικών με κιμά από φακές και μανιτάρια, ελαφρύς, εύκολος, χωρίς λιπαρά - Vegan, oil-free, easy Greek mousaka - Vegan in Athens

Note: Wash the tomatoes thoroughly and blend them without removing the spores and the peels. That way you will add some extra nutrients in your recipe but most importantly you will add to the taste as it has been found that the umami is hidden in these two parts of the fruit!

For the bechamel we can use any unsweetened plant-based milk but our favorite version is with rice or oat milk.

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Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia

Or Smyrna soutzoukakia (plural: soutzoukakia / singular: soutzoukaki, from the Turkish word “sucuk”) as we call them in Greece, are oblong meatballs immersed in a spicy and fragrant tomato sauce and they are considered one of the most delectable Greek dishes. It is said that the recipe for soutzoukakia came to Greece together with the refuges from Smyrna and this is why its name points to this Ancient Greek city.

Since soutzoukakia were the number one in my childhood’s top ten foods, I always wanted to develop a vegan recipe with vegan meatballs and the exact same taste and texture I still remember from the times my mum used to take us to that specific restaurant that made the best soutzoukakia in the whole world. For this purpose I use soaked green lentils -not cooked, as I want texture- and oat flour instead of the eggs, that works as a binding ingredient. The rest of the ingredients and cooking methods I use are exactly the same the original recipe calls for.

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens

Now you may wonder if my vegan soutzoukakia turn out like those I used to eat as a child. The answer is that they turn out much better! Basically we have to consider two things. The first one is the spicy and garlicky tomato sauce which is as flavorful as the original and actually it thickens even better owing to the starches that lentil-balls contain. The second thing is the lentil-balls themselves, the really tricky part of the recipe! Well, I am proud to say that they have the same firm, chewy texture, emanate the aromas of cumin, garlic, cinnamon and allspice and regarding the taste -oh gods!- they are scrumptious, mildly more sweet and just as spicy. Keep in mind that the herbs and spices as well as the olive oil play a central role in the recipe so I would suggest not to omit any of those listed, in order to achieve an authentic experience.

Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Veganinathens.com

Ingredients

for the lentil-balls

  • 300 g dried green lentils
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ – ¾ cup ground oats or oatmeal (use gluten free if you want)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

for the tomato sauce

  • 2-3 fresh ripe tomatoes, grated
  • 1 package (400 g) tomato passata
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6-7 allspice berries
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens

Method

1. Soak lentils overnight (at least 8 hours) and drain. Process them in the food-processor until mushy and transfer in a bowl. Add the onion, parsley, garlic and spices and knead adding gradually the oatmeal until the mixture is consistent and you can shape tangerine-sized balls.

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens
2. Shape oblong meatballs and place on a tray, lined with parchment paper.
3. In a saucepan put enough olive oil and fry the meatballs from both sides until brown. Alternatively, you can bake in the oven at 200 oC for approximately 40 minutes (but you should try them at least once fried!). Transfer to a platter.
4. Prepare the sauce: Choose a large, deep skillet. Put into it the olive oil, the garlic cloves and allspice and saute for 1 minute. Add the wine and the rest of the ingredients. Cover the pan with the lid and simmer for a quarter.
5. Place the lentil-balls carefully in the sauce, but do not overload the skillet as they will increase in volume after absorbing the sauce.
6. Cook for ten more minutes over low heat, turning them upside down one or two times to be fully covered with the sauce. Turn off the heat let them sit for fifteen to thirty minutes for the aromas and tastes to combine.
7. Serve hot with mashed potatoes or rice.

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens

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Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

Baked winter vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette

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Happy December to all the wonderful creatures out there! Winter has come and we welcome it with joy and gratitude and with the smell of cinnamon and cloves in our kitchen, pumpkins of several kinds stored at a cool and shady shelf, fresh salads with tender leaves carefully placed in the fridge, zest of fresh oranges and lemons, hot vegan latte in the morning and hot vegan chocolate in the afternoon and of course tasting and making favorite recipes and especially, as Christmas are so close, traditional Greek vegan kourambiedes and vegan melomakarona.

Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

In December, I absolutely enjoy my vegan shopping in the farmer’s market, as the producers fill their stalls with fresh, cool and tender fruits and vegetables full of aroma and colors. I walk among the stalls just to smell the scent of the freshly cut herbs and enjoy the repertoire of colors. Usually I end up ignoring my shopping list and give in to the freshness, the appetizing shapes and colors, all that magic of nature. A little bit of everything is what I like to buy – usually more than what I actually need, but I don’t mind as there are amazing ways to make good use of everything, like freezing or canning, so I rarely waste fresh produce.

Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

The big dilemma arises when sometimes, on the one hand, I have all the fresh products that seek a place on our table and on the other hand I’m only want to spend a little more time reading or playing with Petra or trying to create the perfect recipe for vegan cookies. In such moments instead of chopping, boiling or sauteing my vegetables I just wash them, salt them, occasionally season them a little bit with paprika or garlic, olive oil and aromatic herbs and bake them all together in the oven for an hour. As they are slowly baked, they soften internally, get an appetizing golden color while they retain all their taste, minerals and vitamins. So, I give myself the chance to spend some more time doing all the things I love (yeah, cooking is one of them but sometimes I just want to be lazy reading a book!) and in the same time I make the perfect vegan salad with baked winter vegetables!

Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

In my current batch I made things as simple as possible to enjoy the authentic flavor of fresh ingredients and not to overload our dinner with calories (do not worry, we already get enough tasting melomakarona these days!). The vegetables I chose to bake are cauliflower and broccoli, white sweet potatoes, potatoes, winter squash, onions, carrots, red cabbage, leek and the last corn of the year. In your batch feel free to experiment with the vegetables of your choice!

What I appreciate with this dish is the convenience and the rich, dense taste of the baked vegetables. In particular, broccoli and cauliflower, vegetables that traditionally are eaten boiled, losing in the simmering water many of their nutrients, become absolutely tasty while retaining all their beneficial ingredients. We like to serve them warm, drizzled with a little lemon juice or a vinaigrette sauce made with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and mustard.

Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients

  • 1 small cauliflower, whole or halved
  • 1 head of broccoli, halved
  • 1 winter squash halved and seeded
  • 1 large sweet potato, whole
  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • 3 onions, peeled (or two onions and one leek)
  • 1 corn
  • 1/2 red cabbage (this is the best of all!)

for the vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp grape molasses or balsamic syrup
  • 1 tsp prepared mustard
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

Method

1. Wash the vegetables and remove any hard stalks.
2. Salt and pepper the vegetables and arrange them next to each other on baking pan lined with baking paper. Pierce the potatoes with a fork. If you want you can drizzle them with some olive oil (but I prefer to add it raw afterwards).
3. Bake in a preheated oven at 200 oC for one hour or until they get a nice color and soften (check the texture by piercing with a fork).
4. Mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette into a jar. Cut the roasted vegetables into pieces, pour over the sauce and serve immediately.

Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

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