16 May 2020

Vegetarian Moussaka

I've been meaning to try my hand at a vegetarian moussaka for a while and in this week's shop, there were some lovely aubergines, so I bought some. I had intended to make this earlier in the week, but there were some urgent gardening activities required, so I kept putting it off.


This time, I decided to do this on my own, without consulting with my Mum or the internet and to be honest, the gamble payed off this time. This morning I was thinking about the film Julie & Julia for some reason, I'm not sure why and I came to think of boeuf bourguignon. A bourguignon is a fairly simple dish to do, you chuck things in a pot and bake for a while, but you can go to the trouble of following the Julia Child recipe and you end up with something amazing. This got my head milling - a moussaka is also a fairly simple dish, would it make a difference to work along the same lines as Julia Child? It turns out that it does matter, so before I forget what I did, I'm writing up the recipe.


2 x 400 g cans of black-eyed beans in water
400 g button mushrooms
3 medium aubergines
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 large courgette
1 x 400 g choped tomatoes
500 g boiled waxy potatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp fresh thyme
3 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tbsp dried dill
1 tbsp dried savory
1 tbsp sweet paprika
salt and pepper 3 tbsp plain flour
3 - 4 dl semi-skimmed milk
3 large eggs


  1. Drain and rinse the beans, then place in a pressure cooker, add water to cover some 5 cm above the level of beans and boil under pressure for 30 minutes. Leave in the pot until required.
  2. Wash and trim the aubergines, then slice to 1 cm thickness. Butter a round deep baking dish of 30 cm diameter and 5 cm deep.
  3. Peel and slice the mushrooms. Peel and dice the onion. Peel the garlic. Dice the potatoes into 1 cm pieces.
  4. Dry-fry the aubergines in a frying pan on high heat until they soften, then use half of them to line the baking dish, while keeping the rest separate.
  5. Now turn down the heat to medium and dry-fry the mushrooms in the same pan, but sprinkle with salt to help release their liquid. Once they start going dry, add about 10 g butter and stir through, then set aside.
  6. Continuing in the same frying pan, melt some 15 g butter and fry the onion. Press in the garlic and stir regularly to avoid burning them. Set aside once they are translucent.
  7. While the onions are frying, trim and peel the courgette, then slice to ½ cm thickness and cut each slice into 1 cm squares.
  8. Once the onions are done, change to a large casserole dish, bring the heat to medium-high and melt some 30 g butter until it starts bubbling.
  9. Add the courgette, sprinkle a little salt over it and fry until it begins to soften, stirring regularly. In the meantime, drain the beans well.
  10. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C fan.
  11. Once the courgette begins to soften, add the beans, mushrooms, onion, the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée and all the herbs, salt and pepper and stir everything together.
  12. Remove from the heat and transfer to the baking dish and level off. Arrange the remaining aubergine slices on top.
  13. Place the casserole dish on high heat and melt about 30 g butter. Measure up the flour and add salt and pepper to it.
  14. Once it bubbles, add the flour and stir vigorouslly with a wooden spoon.
  15. After about a minute, begin to add the milk, a little at a time and stirring constantly to make sure it doesn't burn. Keep adding milk until it becomes a thick batter.
  16. Remove from the heat and swap the wooden spoon for a balloon whisk. Add one egg at a time and whisk into the batter mixture until it's smooth, then pour the topping over the aubergines in the baking dish.
  17. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes until the topping puffs up a bit and goes golden brown.
  • Overall, this took almost 5 h to do, from opening the cans of beans until we sat down at the table, but I think the result was very good, even if Lundulph didn't go for seconds. Possibly I've finally learned how big portions he needs. He certainly seemed to enjoy the moussaka, as did I. We ate a quarter of the dish, so there are 3 more meals in it, which we'll work through in the coming week. I don't think this dish will freeze well unfortunately, but I'll keep this one on the list for the vegetarian family members, once we get to socialise with them.


    A comment on the beans - it doesn't really matter what type are used, but as I've bought the full range of canned beans for Lundulph, he asked me to use the black-eyed ones in particular as these seem to be a bit on the crunchy side, even though they are canned. Other beans are less so. So this step could probably be skipped if using another type of bean.

    As I was transferring the mixture into the baking dish, I realised that I'd forgotten the 3 small carrots I intended to include. They would probably have been nice to have there too.

    Looking at the photos, it looks like a moussaka, but the insides are somewhat more like a weird gyuvetch. Still I'm very pleased with the result. Lundulph's comment was that it was very nicely filling and he could have gone for seconds, but decided not to, probably leaving room for some chocolate. Though if he could choose between this one and a regular moussaka with meat, he'd go for the meat alternative. He did say that it would have been nice to have some additional vegetables on the side, perhaps a salad or such like.


  • 7 May 2020

    Fudge Cake

    I'm immensely pleased about being able to make this fudge cake, it is a recipe from the mid-1970s at least. As I mentioned in the early days of the blog, we were neighbours with a family from Afganistan. This is a recipe from them and given the name, I suspect it is an English recipe that has made its way to Afganistan originally. My Mum used to make it regularly, it was always very popular with guests, but at some point before the year 2000, the recipe got lost.


    But it seems that my Mum had shared it with various friends over the years and now that everyone is in lockdown, a friend living in Milan piped up that she still has it and sent it back to my Mum. Thus it immediately made its way to me and I didn't waste any time baking it. In fact, the file that my Mum's friend sent over was actually titled with the originator's name, so there is no doubt that this is the correct recipe.


    125 g butter + butter for greasing the baking tin
    140 g plain flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    2 tbsp cocoa powder
    270 g icing sugar
    3 large eggs
    3 tbsp desiccated coconut + more for the baking tin
    chopped walnuts for decoration (optional)


    1. Melt the butter on low heat. Grease a 20 cm springform cake tin with butter and coat with desiccated coconut. Pre-heat the oven to 175 °C.
    2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder.
    3. Beat together the icing sugar and the eggs until pale and fluffy.
    4. Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, making sure each part is well incorporated.
    5. Pour in the butter and stir in the coconut into the cake mixture.
    6. Transfer the batter to the cake tin and level off. Sprinkle with walnuts if using.
    7. Bake for 1 h, check that it's done with a stick and if yes, then take out of the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes in the cake tin before carefully releasing it out onto a cooling rack.


    I'm so glad this recipe got found again and that it turned out so well too. I have vague memories that my Mum used to make this as a tray bake, and cut it into small diamond shapes. In this case the baking time is about half, as the cake is thinner, but as I wasn't sure of what amount I'd end up with, I opted for the safe with the springform. Even after an hour, the cake was very nicely moist and retained a little bit of chewiness. We experimented with a caramel ganache as topping on it, which Lundulph really liked. I was happy with just the fudge cake on its own though. I think some whipped cream would have been nice, and no need to sweeten it either, the cake is quite sweet. We needed a week to eat the whole lot.

    I also used a finer version of the desiccated coconut, which I spotted in our supermarket some time ago. It's not good for müsli, but for cakes where it shouldn't be too obvious, it is much better.

    I skipped the walnuts because Lundulph seems to get an allergic reaction to them these days, though I suspect after an hour's baking it would have been OK. Nevertheless, he thoroughly enjoyed this cake, so I'll probably try it again and make it into a tray bake.

    5 May 2020

    Mushroom pie

    It's been many weeks in lockdown in the UK and as I've still not been able to find a new job, I'm using some of my time to cook new things. In the past few weeks, I've bought several batches of lovely button mushrooms, which I've baked with a little salt and this has led to an accumulation of mushroom stems in the freezer. My initial intention was to make mushroom soup with them, but I've yet to find a recipe that I like. Thus I decided to use some of them to make a pie.


    Last week I also had the first ever opportunity to talk to my lovely friend Dr Cutie, who's reorganised her working life to be online for most things. She recently got diagnosed with coeliac disease and as she's been an avid baker for over 30 years, she's been experimenting with gluten-free flours and told me about a bread she'd made with teff flour. This reminded me that I've had a bag of teff flour in the larder for some time with the intent of making ingera bread, but never getting around to doing it so far.


    These things spurred me to try out teff flour and so I reviewed the pie recipes in the blog and made adjustments to this recipe from my Mum.


    Pie crust
    150 g plain flour
    100 g teff flour
    50 g wholemeal flour
    1 ml salt
    150 g unsalted butter
    3 tbsp water
    plain flour for dusting if required

    1 medium onion
    1 clove of garlic
    30 g unsalted butter
    1.5 dl parboiled ceps
    4 dl parboiled button mushroom stems
    1 tsp dried rosemary
    1 small pinch of grated nutmeg
    2 large eggs
    1.5 dl whipping cream
    1 dl semi-simmed milk
    salt and pepper


    1. Stir together the flours and salt in a large bowl, then dice the cold butter into the mixture and pinch together to fine crumbs.
    2. Add the water, 1 tbsp at a time and keep carefully mixing the dough until it just comes together.
    3. Divide into two equal parts. Wrap each part well and freeze one and put the other one in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
    4. Peel and dice the onion, peel the garlic.
    5. Heat up the butter in a deep frying pan on medium heat and fry the onion and press in the garlic until translucent.
    6. Add the mushrooms, rosemary and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper and fry until the mixture is dry.
    7. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C and take the dough out of the fridge and roll to a thin sheet, about 3 mm thick.
    8. Line a round pie dish of 27 cm diameter and let the dough go a little over the edge of the dish so that it doesn't sink back.
    9. Prick with a fork and blind-bake for 10 minutes until it's dry.
    10. Whisk together the eggs, cream and milk in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
    11. Spread the mushroom mixture in the pie crust and pour the egg mixture over.
    12. Bake the pie until the surface of the egg mixture has turned golden brown, about 30 minutes.

    This was very tasty and I'm particularly pleased that I have a second batch of dough in the freezer for the next savoury pie. The filling was a bit too little. I should have used one more egg I think and topping with cheese would have filled the pie dish. Obviously the last bit is not an option with Lundulph sadly, so if I make this recipe again, I'll need to revise the amounts.

    IMG_5942 IMG_5943
    IMG_5944 IMG_5945

    Otherwise, the pie disappeared quite quickly, Lundulph did like it, as did I, and it would be a good one to serve the vegetarian contingent of the extended family if they ever come to visit us in the future.