Easy, tasty roasted eggplant curry

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Every once in a while, I’ll get cravings for fruits and veggies that don’t otherwise hit my radar. This week, the craving was for eggplant. So, I made a super easy, flavourful but not spicy-at-all curry. The recipe is pretty much effortless and the end result is so satisfying!

Let’s get started.

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Ingredients

600 g (about 1 ½ pounds) baby or Japanese eggplants, cut into coins. I used three Japanese eggplants.

up to 1 tsp salt (divided)

½ tsp pepper

3 Tbsp neutral-tasting oil (I used peanut oil)

2 onions peeled, cut in half and then thinly sliced

2-3 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp turmeric

½ tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp sugar (any kind but make sure it’s vegan)

397ml can roasted, diced tomatoes

397ml can coconut milk

Juice from ¼ of a lemon

Optional – ½ to 1 cup cooked lentils

Eggplant curry

Directions

Heat your oven to 400F (200C) and place the sliced eggplants on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of the oil. Sprinkle with pepper and salt. Bake for 20 minutes until the eggplants are golden.

You can bake the eggplant ahead of time – even the day before – and store in the fridge in a sealed container.

In a medium-sized pot that has a lid, sauté the onion in the remaining 1 Tbsp oil on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. You want the onions to be soft and starting to turn golden. Add the garlic, salt, all the spices, sugar and lemon juice, and heat through.

Turn the heat up to high and add all the remaining ingredients. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on, then 5 minutes uncovered to let the sauce thicken.

Serve with basmati rice and enjoy!

This dish makes 4 servings and freezes well.

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My big fat vegan moussaka

moussaka

So we’re turning the clocks back an hour this weekend. What are you going to do with this extra time?? Make vegan moussaka!! This dish is made up of layers of roasted eggplant, potato and zucchini in a lightly cinnamon-scented tomato sauce and a creamy “béchamel” topping. It’s all comforting and delicious without being heavy.

This isn’t a difficult recipe, but there is a time commitment of about 90 minutes from start to finish. It’s worth it though!

You can make this dish the day before, right up to the baking stage.

This recipe is heavily based on Isa Chandra’s recipe. She must have a large food budget because she recommends some rather costly ingredients such as pine nuts instead of ground almonds in the béchamel. I’ll bet that’s lovely, but since I still have a mortgage, I went with more affordable ingredients throughout.

You will need a food processor or sturdy blender for to make the béchamel sauce.

Ingredients

For the vegetable layer

1 large eggplant

3 large white potatoes

1 very large or 2 average-sized zucchinis

Enough olive oil to oil 3 cookie sheets

For the sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small onion diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup vegetable broth or red wine

23 oz jar or 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes (I use Italian crushed tomatoes that come in a jar – the taste is far superior for the extra dollar it costs).

2 teaspoons oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Bechamel topping

A 12 oz block of tofu

½ cup ground almonds

3 Tablespoons lemon juice (about ½ of a juicy lemon)

1 teaspoon arrowroot powder or tapioca powder

1 clove garlic

pinch nutmeg

1 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

pepper to taste

Other ingredients

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Enough oil to oil a 9”x13” baking or casserole dish

moussaka3

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400. Lightly oil three baking sheets or shallow pans.

Roast the vegetables

Trim the stems from the eggplant and zucchini(s). Remove any eyes from the potatoes, but there’s no need to peel them. Slice the eggplant, zucchini and potato, lengthwise, into approximately 1/4 inch thick slices. Rub the eggplant slices with a little salt and set aside in a colander in the sink or in a big bowl for about 15 minutes to soften and sweat (yes, you will see the eggplant sweating!). The salt helps lift out any bitter taste in the eggplant. Lightly rinse off the eggplant after it’s had time to sweat.

Use a separate baking sheet for each type of vegetable. Spread the vegetable slices out in a single layer. Give the potatoes and zucchini a light sprinkle of salt.

Roast the zucchini and eggplant for 15 minutes and the potatoes for 20. Remove from the oven and allow the vegetables to cool.

Leave the oven on!

While the vegetables are roasting make the sauce.

Add the ¼ cup olive oil to a large pot and heat on medium high. Sauté the onion and garlic until they are translucent. Add the other ingredients and bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and set the pot of sauce aside.

Make the béchamel sauce

Add all the ingredients to a food processor or strong blender. Blend until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed. I add up to ½ cup of water as I’m blending to get a creamier sauce… it really depends on the tofu you use.

Assemble and bake

Oil a 9 x 13 pan. Spread a big spoonful of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan. Layer in the eggplant, then the potato, then a thin layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle with half the bread crumbs. Add the layer of zucchini. Add the next layer of eggplant and potatoes and the remainder of the breadcrumbs. Layer the remainder of the tomato sauce over it all. Then spread the béchamel sauce as the top layer and smooth it out. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and it’s formed a few cracks. Allow the dish to cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Ratatouille – the savoury stewed flavours of the early harvest

Ratatouille

My organic farmers’ box arrived this week with an eggplant, a yellow zucchini and a red pepper. Looked like ratatouille waiting to happen to me!

Ratatouille is a vegetable stew that’s satisfying and rustic. Rustic is cooking talk for “easy and carelessly chopped.” When I eat ratatouille, I envision sturdy French peasants eating from wooden bowls by the warm glow of the fireplace.

Ingredients

1 zucchini – cut in half lengthwise and then sliced

1 medium eggplant – with ½ the skin peeled off and then cut in cubes. There’s no magic in peeling off half the skin. I just like having some pieces with skin on and some skinless. Leave all the skin on, or take it all off. Your ratatouille, your rules.

1 red pepper – seeded and roughly diced (rustically diced)

3-4 cremini mushrooms – stems removed and sliced

½ large white onion diced

4 cloves garlic minced

19 oz can diced tomatoes

¼ cup fresh basil chopped

¼ cup fresh parsley chopped

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 2 sprigs dried thyme (roughly 1 tsp dried thyme)

1 ½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp salt

½ tsp ground pepper

2 tsp olive oil

Directions

In a large pot, sauté the garlic and onion in the olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add all the other ingredients and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and keep simmering for 30-60 minutes. The longer you simmer this dish, the more the veggies will break down. I preferred a chunkier stew and only simmered mine for 40 minutes.

TIP: Add a tablespoon or so of balsamic vinegar to most tomato dishes – spaghetti, minestrone soup, ratatouille or even cream pasta sauces. The vinegar adds depth and roundness to the flavours.

I had some leftover lentils in the freezer – about ¾ cup – so I threw them in the pot, but that is NOT classic ratatouille.

Ratatouille is usually served with crusty bread and might have cheese, particularly goat cheese, melted on top.

Since I am not a sturdy French peasant and am vegan, I will have my ratatouille over brown rice and with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.