Most days I love to cook. In fact, I do it at least three times a day, and sometimes many times in between meals because I just love it so. And then there are the days when I’m either too tired, or completely burnt out and I hate that question that comes every night….“What’s for dinner??!”
Most days I smile as I whip up some dinner for my family. Other days I smile as I pour cereal into bowls and top it with a bit of cold milk (that one never goes over well)… But I have found a really great balance between the days I want to cook and those that I don’t – and that’s with batch cooking.
According to the internet, “batch cooking is when a cook (hey, that’s me and you!!) makes a lot of a specific food all at once, then stores it in portions for later use. Most of the time, food made in batches is frozen, but it can also be refrigerated or kept in airtight containers for short periods of time depending on how it is meant to be used.”
Seems easy enough, right? Sure, it may seem like you are cooking more at the beginning by making double the portion that you normally would but I’m telling you right now – it’s totally and completely worth it when you face a challenging/exhausting/just-don’t-want-to-cook-and-you-can’t-make-me-kind of day!!
Most of the time my batch cooking is reserved for soups and stews because it’s just as easy to fill up that crockpot halfway as it is all the way and put half in the freezer for later. But lately, I’ve been batch cooking all kinds of dishes that are easily cooked in the oven like pasta bakes, stuffed veggies, and this lentil and eggplant moussaka.
Moussaka (pronounced moo-saak-a) is a Greek eggplant dish that typically features ground meat and then is covered in a béchamel type sauce and baked. There are as many versions of this dish that there are cooks in the world but this Greek version is what I was going after here – just taking out the meat and replacing it with lentils for a vegetarian twist on the classic dish.
It’s a super easy construction – lentils and eggplant are cooked together with onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and a bit of cinnamon and topped with a custardy layer of ricotta cheese and greek yogurt before being baked in the oven until hot and bubbly. The dish is so filling and so satisfying that you really don’t need much more but maybe a little green salad on the side. And make sure to batch cook this recipe and fill up a second dish for your freezer, your friend, or your sanity – nothing saves the day like having a meal already prepared for you on the days you want to reach for that cereal box!!
lentil and eggplant moussaka
recipe from BBC Food
makes 6 servings
For the filling
2 cups cooked lentils
1 medium sized eggplant, cut into 1 inch dice
extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, seeds removed finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
14 ounces canned chopped tomatoes, drained or 2 cups chopped fresh or roasted tomatoes
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
For the topping
5 ounces ricotta cheese
5 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, add the eggplant and 3 tablespoons of olive oil and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until golden-brown on all sides. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on kitchen paper.
Add the onion, pepper and garlic to the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until softened.
Add the tomato purée, stir to coat the vegetables in it, then continue to fry for a further 4-5 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cinnamon stick and simmer for 4-5 minutes.
Add the lentils and return the eggplant to the pan. Simmer for a further 2-3 minutes, or until warmed through.
Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the chopped parsley.
In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, yogurt, eggs and grated nutmeg until well combined. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Pour the topping mixture into the ovenproof dish on top of the filling. Sprinkle over the grated parmesan.
Transfer the veggie moussaka to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is golden-brown and has set and the filling is bubbling. Serve immediately.