A Vegetarian Moussaka



The closest Greek restaurant to us is Lemonia in Primrose Hill. We have been regular customers since it opened in its current corner location nearly 30 years ago, and it is the first restaurant I brought all the children to, when they were still babies in a carry basket. Somehow life was more relaxed, and the restaurant less noisy, back then.

Given my life again I would not be bringing any baby into a busy restaurant, mainly because (thinking about it) it is better to look at my food instead of looking at a baby.

No one is going anywhere or looking at anything at the moment, as we are all stuck indoors for our own safety. We take it in turns to cook one big dish every few days and this vegetarian moussaka is one of junior 2’s favourite.

The secret is to roast a panful of thinly sliced vegetables in olive oil, layer this with some reduced tomato sauce and then bake everything under a luscious coating of béchamel sauce enriched with cheese and eggs. The only thing you need to master is the béchamel sauce as everything else is child’s play.

The recipe is in three parts, and you can make the sauces ahead of time then assemble the moussaka just before baking. The vegetables used here are entirely of our own imagination. Lemonia’s vegetarian moussaka has potatoes, carrots, aubergine, courgette, broad beans and artichoke.



For the Roast Vegetables:

This is what we used for the moussaka this time. In practice the number, type and amount of vegetables change according to what is in season. Excluding the cooked beans/ artichoke and spinach/ kale, a 1.8 kg mixture of any of the following vegetables would be good: aubergine, potatoes, red peppers, courgette, onion, carrot and fennel. As the moussaka feeds 6 – 8 people, this is not an excessive amount of vegetables to use.

The mixed cooked beans / artichoke and spinach/ kale are added to the roasted vegetables later. All weights here are for vegetables without the peel, stems or seeds.

450 g aubergine

430 g potatoes (we leave the skin on for texture)

275 g red peppers

270 g courgette

250 g squash or pumpkin

130 g white onion

Olive oil

225 g mixed cooked beans OR cooked artichokes

135 g spinach OR Tuscan kale


Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C/ 180°C Fan.

Slice the aubergine, potatoes, red peppers, courgette, squash or pumpkin and onion into 1 cm slices. Spread the vegetables over two large baking trays and drizzle over a generous quantity of olive oil.

Roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

Whilst waiting for the vegetables to cook, start making the tomato and béchamel sauces, if you have not prepared this beforehand.



For the Tomato Sauce:

100 g onions, chopped

15 g garlic, finely chopped

20 g olive oil

2 x 400 g tins of Italian plum tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

10 turns of the pepper mill

Pinch of sugar


In a large saucepan, fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil. Add the tinned tomatoes, oregano, fennel seeds, salt, pepper and sugar.

Cook uncovered over a medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring every now and then to crush the tomatoes a little.


For the Béchamel Sauce:

75 g cold unsalted butter, cubed

75 g plain flour

750 g full-fat or half-fat milk

100 g cheddar cheese, grated

1 teaspoon Marigold vegetable stock powder

10 turns of the pepper mill

2 eggs, beaten


In a large saucepan, whisk together the butter and flour until you get a thick paste. Slowly add the milk, 150 g at a time, whisking it into the flour and butter. As soon as the milk is incorporated, add more milk. Continue to whisk over a low heat for around 3 minutes. Add in the cheese, vegetable stock powder and pepper. Continue whisking until the sauce is really smooth.

Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl and ladle in one scoop of the hot milk sauce into the eggs, whisking it until the sauce is mixed into the eggs. Do this quickly so the eggs do not set in the heat. Repeat this step two more times, then pour the egg sauce back into the milk pan.

Switch off the heat and continue whisking until the sauce is smooth.


Assembling the Moussaka:

Remove the vegetables from the oven when cooked.

In order to make the moussaka the way Junior 2 makes it, I had to watch her, ask questions and prepare the vegetables and sauces. Otherwise she instinctively throws everything together and even after eating this a few times, I had no idea how to make it.

The moussaka is built up layer by layer. Start by pouring 1/5 of the tomato sauce into a large and deep baking tray. Place 1/3 of the vegetables plus 1/3 of the beans/ artichoke on top.

Repeat with another 1/5 of the tomato sauce and 1/3 of the vegetables plus 1/3 of the beans/ artichoke.

Place another 1/5 of the tomato sauce over this layer of vegetables and then add the spinach/ Tuscan kale.

Pour over another 1/5 of the tomato sauce and  the remainder of the vegetables and beans/ artichoke.

Pour over the remainder of the tomato sauce, followed by all of the béchamel sauce.

Bake in the oven at 200 °C/ 180°C Fan for 40 minutes. Let the moussaka stand for 10 minutes before serving.


The layers look like this from top to bottom:

Béchamel Sauce
1/5 Tomato Sauce
1/3 vegetables and beans/ artichoke
1/5 Tomato Sauce
All the spinach/ kale
1/5 Tomato Sauce
1/3 vegetables and beans/ artichoke
1/5 Tomato Sauce
1/3 vegetables and beans/ artichoke
1/5 Tomato Sauce


Add the spinach/ kale after the first two layers of tomato sauce and roasted vegetables


Add the remainder of the roasted vegetables and tomato sauce, topped by all of the béchamel sauce


Bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 200 °C/ 180°C Fan, and let the moussaka rest for 10 minutes before serving



Lemonia Restaurant, 89 Regent’s Park Road, Primrose Hill, London NW1 8UY. Telephone 020 7586 7454. http://www.lemonia.co.uk/