Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Quorn Moussaka


This dish is my nemesis.

About 5 years ago we had an absolutely delicious roasted vegetable moussaka at a friend's for dinner. It was so good in fact that being a lovely person she allowed us to take what was left home for tea the next day. We enjoyed it immensely and it spurred me on to create a version myself (how hard could it be? right?).

What followed was a couple of years where I recreated this dish every 6 months or so and every single time (different recipes/methods) it was BAD. The veg would go soggy. It would be abominably bland. It would have the consistency of gruel. My husband began to FEAR the moussaka. I began to hate it.

About a year ago I tried again with a quorn based recipe I found online....the results led to my husband pleading with me never to ever make moussaka again. I was inclined to agree with him because on that occasion it was just downright unpleasant and neither of us finished it.

So....when I saw that there was a moussaka in this book its fair to say I freaked out a little....and this weekend just gone I finally tackled the beast!

Unfortunately, I still seem to be jinxed - this is the first recipe in the book where there are two glaring errors in the text which left me confused. I also managed to buy the wrong kind of milk (condensed instead of evaporated) which caused a panic halfway through cooking and rapid googling for a solution. But overall, as far as moussakas go in this house, this was a massive improvement.

This is the moussaka as it came out the oven, it looks pretty good (or at least I thought so):

The recipe is one of the most technically complicated in the book so far and has a pretty extensive ingredients list. This is where my first issue with the recipe arose as in the list of ingredients is a tin of puy lentils with the word (optional) in brackets. I happened to have a tin in the cupboard so intended on adding this....however, the lentils are then never referred to in the recipe text. Rather than taking a flyer on when to add them therefore, I simply left them out. This is clearly an omission of the recipe writers though.

I grilled my aubergine slices first, rather than after starting the mince mixture as is suggested in the recipe text. I wanted to be able to just get on with mixing everything else together so I simply put the aubergine to one side before ploughing on with the base sauce.

The base sauce is pretty straightforward, onion, garlic and carrots are gently fried until soft, the mince and seasonings are added along with the tomatoes and bob's your uncle. The recipe states to bring this to the boil - I found there was not enough fluid to do so and added half the tomato tin of boiled water and this did the trick. Easy enough.

Now for the sauce....

It was at this point that I realised I had bought the wrong type of milk. The tins are all the same for the carnation brand and I had therefore picked up condensed milk (which is heavily sweetened and intended for desserts) rather than evaporated. I googled and discovered this was not going to be a suitable exchange and then realised I would need to create a basic bechemel to substitute for it.

While I was doing this I spotted the 2nd error (or lack of clarity) in the recipe. Had I had the necessary evaporated milk the recipe tells me to make up the 410g tin to a litre by adding water. Ok - that's fine. Except that a little further down it states to add the 40g of cornflour to '6 tblsp of the milk'. Does it mean normal milk which is not listed in the ingredients? (which is a method used in other recipes in this book with cornflour). Or does it mean 6 tblsp of the evaporated milk and water mixture? 

Anyway, this milk confusion was, for me, beside the point as I had had to abandon the sauce mix from the book and create a bechemel from scratch. Thankfully this sauce turned out to be absolutely fine and worked well.

This is the moussaka as served:

The recipe suggests it makes 4-6 portions. I would say it is 4 portions as a main meal without accompaniment, 6 portions if you are serving with bread or a salad on the side. The portion shown above is a quarter of the entire dish.

Amazingly we actually did enjoy this dish although after years of my terrible attempts my husband was a bit jaded about it and said it is 'like lasagne but not as nice'. I sort of see what he is saying. This is a nice dish, it tastes ok (and compared to my previous attempts its a vast improvement!) but it is not so great I will make it again and neither is it particularly inspiring to me.

In terms of weight watchers points, one portion (based on the recipe serving 4) contains 13 points as follows (I have based this on the actual sauce from the recipe not the one I ended up making): quorn mince (2), evaporated milk (3), flour (2), butter (2), oil (2), cornflour (2).

We decided that for us this recipe was a 6/10. Not a high scorer from the book for us but in terms of a moussaka in this household quite an achievement. If you are a big fan of this dish then you may enjoy it more than we did. It is a pretty healthy version considering the rich sauce so do give it a go.

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