Moussaka with Tahini (Moussaka bil Tahina)

This Levantine style aubergine moussaka comes from Tony Kitous' Comptoir Libanais. Top with a dollop of tahini, za'atar spice blend and fresh flat leaf parsley.

Introduction

In the UK, moussaka is most commonly served in its Greek form, as a predominantly aubergine- and meat-based baked dish topped with a rich bechamel sauce. But in fact the dish crops up in several national cuisines. There are Turkish, Serbian and Egyptian versions, as well as this traditional Levantine recipe, which is often served as a mezze dish, either hot or cold.This version is purely vegetarian and is lighter than its Greek counterpart as the key flavour is an intense tomato sauce. Don't skip the tahini dressing - the flavour of the sesame seeds and the cooling yoghurt is a fabulous contrast to the dish itself and rounds it off perfectly.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 aubergines
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing and drizzling
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
400g chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
6 tomatoes, sliced
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the tahini dressing:
125g yoghurt
40g tahini
Couple of pinches of za'atar
Flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Instructions

Take one aubergine and chop into bite-size cubes, lay on a plate and cover with salt. Set aside for 15 minutes to draw out all the bitter juices. Slice the other aubergine into rounds then salt and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion for around 10-15 minutes until it's starting to soften and caramelise.

Rinse the cubed aubergine and add to the pan with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Cook, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes until the cubes have softened and turned golden.

Stir in the garlic and cook in the heat of the pan for a couple of minutes until you can smell the aroma. Pour in the tomatoes, and tomato puree and bring everything to a simmer. Cover and cook on the lowest heat for 15 minutes.

Rinse the salt from the remaining aubergine. Preheat the grill and oil a baking sheet. Brush the aubergine slices liberally with oil and grill until golden, turning halfway through. Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / gas 6.

Place a layer of the aubergine sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, then cover this with the sliced tomatoes, chickpeas and finally the grilled aubergine. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top. To make the dressing, stir together the yoghurt, tahini and za'atar to taste. Scatter the chopped parsley over the moussaka and serve with the tahini dressing.

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