For most, the word Moussaka conjures up images of layers of fried eggplant, juicy minced beef and sometimes even a layer of creamy bechamel sauce baked to perfection. The moussaka that I am sharing with you today (as you have probably guessed by looking at the picture) is a different version of Moussaka. It is vegetarian and it is popular in parts of the middle east like Iraq and Egypt. It goes by the name Tipsi in Iraq and Moussaka in Egypt and in it the eggplant is usually cut into cubes, fried and then it is cooked in a tomato sauce with green peppers and other vegetables (most commonly potatoes).
Different spices are added to elevate a simple combination of vegetables to an addictive combination of textures, colors and flavors. The frying softens the eggplant to the point of creaminess, the peppers add a pop of color and texture as they hold up better to frying. The tomato sauce is actually the star here. The spice blend, vinegar and sugar make it complex with layers of flavor, the perfect canvass for the creamy eggplant and green peppers.
This vegetarian moussaka is actually popular street food in Egypt. It is usually served alongside falafel and foul for breakfast. It is also used as a filling for sandwiches, popular among students looking for a quick meal on the go.
Egyptian vegetarian moussaka
1 kg eggplants
1 kg green pepper
3 chili peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1. Cut the eggplants into medium-sized cubes (Don’t peel the eggplants, the peel adds color and flavor).
2. Fry the eggplant cubes in vegetable oil till golden brown, drain, set aside.
3.Cut the pepper into cubes and fry in the oil for 2-3 minutes
To prepare the sauce:
1.Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a pot and saute the garlic until fragrant
2.Add the tomato sauce, ketchup, chopped tomatoes, sugar with a quarter cup of water. 3. 3. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes while stirring occasionally.
4. Add the spices, eggplants, peppers, and stir.
5.Turn off the heat, cover the pot and leave it aside for at least 10- 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend
6.Add the vinegar and stir. Now your moussaka is ready for serving.
7. Serve with pita bread and french fries
– This version of moussaka can be eaten hot or cold.
– Some like to add cubes of fried potatoes to the eggplants and green peppers while others see that it may affect the final taste and prefer to serve the fries on the side. Try it both ways and decide for your self which version tastes better.