While we were there, we took a boat trip to the volcanic island Nisyros, which is a beautiful, unspoiled place and relatively uncommercial. We were wandering down the streets, looking for somewhere to eat lunch, when we came across a tiny courtyard packed with people sitting at tables, laughing and shouting and eating lovely, freshly made food. We looked around for a quieter spot, close to the bustle, and chose a fairly empty terrace with laid tables. We sat down and were immediately accosted by somebody speaking loudly in Greek, who dragged us into his kitchen (not a restaurant kitchen – his genuine, home kitchen), thrust a plate into each of our hands and pulled dish upon dish out of his oven.
There was pork (a huge cut), chicken (2 whole birds) and the most enormous moussaka I have ever seen. I chose moussaka (I thought he was offering a choice…); he filled our plates with everything. It was piled so high we had to carefully balance our way back to the table, and…it was all delicious.
But that moussaka has stuck in my mind. He used courgette, rather than aubergine, which is probably what was in season but, with so many people I know disliking aubergine, it seems an ingenious solution!
So, rather than try to recreate his dish (I wouldn’t do it justice), I’ve decided to give a veggie moussaka a go using courgette. I’ve had the seal of approval from the other half, so give it a go!
This will serve 6 with a Greek salad on the side; it also freezes well. It’ll take up to one and half hours, but is worth it!
2 tbsps olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 glass red wine
1 tsp each of dried oregano, rosemary and sage (use fresh if you have it to hand)
2 x 400g tins chickpeas
250g pack ready to eat green lentils
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2-3 medium courgettes
25g plain flour
1 pt milk
1. Chop the onion and garlic and put in a casserole dish with the olive oil. Sizzle for 1 minute over a medium heat, then stir in the dried herbs. Add the red wine and allow to bubble down.
2. Tip in the chickpeas (including the water), lentils and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and allow to simmer down for up to 45 minutes (the longer the better).
3. Meanwhile, make your bechamel. Melt the margarine in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir in the flour. Sizzle for 1-2 minutes, then turn off the heat. Grab a whisk, and start gradually adding the milk, whisking all the time. When you’ve added all of the milk, turn the heat back on and continue whisking until the sauce has thickened. Turn the heat off.
4. Slice the courgettes widthways into 0.5cm slices. In a large ovenproof dish, layer chickpea mix, sliced courgette, chickpea mix then sliced courgette.
5. Whisk the egg into your bechamel sauce then quickly pour over the final layer of courgette. Top with the grated parmesan and crumbled feta, then pop in the oven at 70 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
6. The Greek serve their moussaka luke-warm but I prefer mine boiling hot!