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Guest spot. Best vegetarian recipes : Emma Bennett’s Vegetarian Moussaka recipe

Emma's vegetarian moussaka

Last week I ate three excellent vegetarian meals. Danny ate two – he was stuck coming back from Wales and made do with a burger. My trusty Alpha Carnivore mentioned his meal in passing.
“It was an Aberdeen Angus burger but it was tiny. I didn’t want a burger and envied you.”

I was polishing off the final (large portion) of Emma’s Vegetarian Moussaka. Unbelievably good. With Danny away I could have seconds too.

I decided to start cooking this meal on Sunday evening and prepared the lentils and aubergine. I made the lentil mixture for 6 (half in the freezer) and halved the quantities for the aubergine. On Monday morning I assembled these and in the evening only had to make the topping and pop it in the oven. Easy peasy and no pinched face opening the kitchen door at 9.45 pm to find out if we’d possibly be eating before midnight.

Danny usually cooks on Sunday evening and the lentil mixture bubbled on the stove as he stirred his sauce. It did look a bit hearty and lentily and altogether unappealing. I had a teeny taste under D’s beady eye. It tasted wonderful! Danny took a nibble and roared with relief.

The final combination was superb. Try this – even a man eating Yeti would probably enjoy this.

Emma Bennett’s Vegetarian Moussaka recipe

This serves about six and is based on Jane Grigson’s recipe from her Vegetable Book.


  • 1-1.5 kg sliced aubergines
  • Lentil sauce:
    1 onion
    1-2 cloves garlic
    50 g red lentils
    25 g Puy lentils/green lentils
    Hot water or veg stock (we used chicken stock)
    250g brown lentils (This flummoxed me. I found some small brown Italian lentils and then lost my nerve. I bought a smart box of Merchany Gourmet Pardina lentils and discovered that they looked the same as the cheaper pack)
    1 tin chopped tomatoes
    1/2 tsp dried oregano or marjoram
    Black pepper
    Cayenne pepper ( I didn’t have this so used half a teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika)
    0.5 tsp cinnamon, if liked (or use a broken cinnamon stick)
    1 glass red wine
    pinch of sugar
    70g grated feta
    2 tbsp grated parmesan
    1-2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
  • Cheese sauce:
    1 pt thick bechamel sauce
    2 large eggs
    70 g feta
    additional cheese for topping (I used Parmesan)


  1. Fry half of the aubergine slices in oil, and blanch the other half
    In boiling water until just tender. Drain and leave to cool.
  2. Sweat the onion and garlic in a little butter until softened (about 10 mins).
  3. Add the dried lentils and the stock; the stock should cover the lentils (you may need to adjust the amount). Add the cinnamon, a pinch of sugar,the wine,herbs and tomatoes. Simmer the lentils until tender – the stock should be well absorbed but the lentils should not be dry, so add more stock during cooking if required. Add black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.
  4. Add the cheeses and the bread crumbs. You might not need all of the breadcrumbs if the lentil mixture is fairly dry. Mix well.
  5. Make the bechamel sauce and allow it to cool slightly (you don’t want the eggs to scramble on contact). Beat the eggs and add them, whisking well, followed by the cheese. The sauce should be a custardy-yellow colour.
  6. Assemble the moussaka:
    Use a large (c. 26 cm) casserole – grease it well with butter. Starting and finishing with aubergine slices, layer the lentil mixture in the casserole – I usually do three layers. Put all of the sauce on top, followed by a grating of cheese. Bake at 150c (fan assisted, 170c reguar oven) for about 40 mins, until bubbling (this will take longer if you’re assembling pre-cooked, cold components) – you may find that you need to give it about 10 mins under the grill to brown the top at the end.

Emma adds – as an alternative, you can use potato or courgette slices instead of aubergine – both are authentic.

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  1. This was quite nice! Not really a moussaka (no meat, no potatoes? no moussaka!), but a very nice lentil eggplant dish covered in a thick and luxurious custard that still was still fairly light. The mozarella had all but disappeared so i’ll omit it next time, I think. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. I’d like to make a moussaka to be divided into 2 -one for meat eaters (the majority) & one for vegetarians. The recipes I’ve seen vary slightly (not sure why) so any tips would be very welcome!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Natasha

    I’ve used both and I think that the browny green lentils taste best in this dish instead of the Pardina lentils. I’ve found a good cheap puy lentil supplier, which is handy.

    Thanks for leaving a comment.

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