So, when I first realized it was fairly serious with the dude who would become my betrothed and that my days of cooking meat were more or less over, I was perturbed. There were a few recipes that I was convinced could not be made without meat and, as such, I would NEVER EVER EAT AGAIN. (Yes, I’m being rather dramatic, but the story’s more fun that way!) A certain moussaka recipe was one of them. I went through all the stages of grief: denial, anger, sadness, unrepentant-yet-secret meat-eating binges (okay, that’s not one of the stages of grief, but you get the idea).
And then, I discovered mycoprotein. Mycoprotein is some crazy shizz, people. It’s basically a grown fungus mixed with egg whites and vitamins. Sound delish, don’t it? It was originally developed back in the 60s when it was predicted that there would be a shortage of protein-rich foods (like meat) by the 80s. Well, that didn’t happen (although it is happening to fish), but these nice scientists went ahead and created this stuff anyway. It’s high in protein, has all nine essential amino acids, no cholesterol and is low in fat. Quorn is the brand that’s available in the US and EU; the company who manufactures Quorn has a patent which expires this year, so who knows, there just may be a mycoprotein boom! We’ll see. Read all about it here and here:
Anyway, I liked the idea of using a mix of this Quorn with tempeh (vs. a soy crumble, which could work too) to substitute for the ground beef (half of which, by the way, I had originally substituted with ground turkey). As long as the final amount of protein is equal to 2 lbs., give or take a few ounces, you’re good to go.
And I have to say, it tastes a.ma.zing. Really. The protein/meat-esque part is juicy and flavorful, and the fab custardy topping is fab and custardy! For you food historians, the topping is officially called a custard, which is a Mornay sauce with eggs added. A Mornay sauce, which is a béchamel sauce* with cheese added, is named for a Duke de Mornay, although technically it wasn’t even based on a béchamel sauce because béchamel sauce hadn’t been invented yet. Sigh. History is just that: his story. But, I digress. Back to the dish at hand. There is a really nice contrast between the textures and flavors of the two main components of this dish (chewy/spicy and creamy/cheesy). And my husband (who is a rather finicky vegetarian to boot and doesn’t particularly like eggplant) loves it (maybe because the eggplant kind of melts away and he doesn’t realize there’s any in there. And no, I’m not about to tell him).
It’s so good, I have confidently served this to raging carnivores and no, I don’t tell them that it’s not meat (well, not at first. I mean, the husband is sitting right there eating it, so I suppose it’s sort of obvious). Whatever – I could fool a raging carnivore if I felt like it. So there.
* A béchamel sauce is a roux with milk added. And a roux is butter and flour cooked together. And…that’s all I got.
3 tablespoons olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan)
1 small to medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 8-ounce packages of tempeh, crumbled (I like SoyBoy Organic)
1 12-ounce bag + 1/3 of another bag of Quorn/mycoprotein
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3/4 cup dry red wine (you can substitute vegetable stock, but you’ll miss out on the flavor the wine adds)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar (preferably raw or brown)
1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, sliced into thin rounds
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk (you can use low-fat if you must, but I’d rather you didn’t; and warm it up over low heat in another pan so you’re not adding cold milk to the roux)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add crumbled tempeh and cook another 5 minutes or so. Next add the Quorn (you don’t need to thaw it, just toss it in). You may want to turn the heat up a bit at this point. Mix in tomato sauce, red wine, parsley, oregano, cinnamon and sugar. Let everything come to a happy bubble and then simmer for about 20 minutes or until the liquid has almost been absorbed.
While that’s simmering, preheat the oven to 350°F/180º C and melt butter in a heavy (yes, it must be a decently heavy pan, otherwise it will burn and I can vouch from experience, that burned is bad) medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Mix the flour into the butter and cook for a minute to get rid of that raw floury taste. It should be a bit bubbly, but not going crazy. Please don’t burn it. Gradually whisk in the warm milk. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, cooking until the mixture is thick and whisking constantly. It should take about 2-3 minutes. Beat eggs in small bowl first; then add a bit of the béchamel sauce to the eggs and then pour that mixture back into the pan (you don’t want to make scrambled eggs here, kids). Bring to a boil again, whisking constantly. (Yes, your wrist may be a bit tired at this point. Don’t worry – almost done.) Take the custard off the heat and add 1/2 a cup of the grated Parmesan. Add the nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Butter or spray a 9” x 13” baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant in the bottom of dish – you’ll do some overlapping here. Cram it in, as it will basically melt away. Season with salt and pepper. Next, pour the tempeh/Quorn mixture over the eggplant. Then top that with the remaining eggplant. Season this layer with salt and pepper. Pour the custard over the eggplant and spread evenly with a spatula or knife. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Cover loosely with foil and bake for one hour. Take off the foil and bake another 10 minutes or until the top gets all bubbly and golden and gooey-looking. Let it sit and cool for 10 minutes.
Then devour. Just like a raging carnivore.