aubergine, beef, cauliflower, crockpot, Dukan diet friendly, eggplant, Greek, low fat, meat sauce, protein, red pepper, slow cooker, vegetables
This is a complicated recipe. It’s not at all difficult, but there are many steps to it. It’s not a throw-together-right-after-work meal, but you can make it in stages over a couple of days; and that makes life a lot easier. The seed for this idea was planted when I made the Healthier Mac & Cheese using a cauliflower béchamel. I started wondering if I could use this sauce in a lasagna, but then it occurred to me that it’s actually Dukan friendly. So my thoughts turned towards adapting a classic dish to suit this protein and veg based diet. Lasagna was out due to the pasta, so what else could I make? Moussaka of course! Sadly the potato had to be replaced, but layers of red peppers compensated by lending their sweetness and bright colour to the dish.
On my first go at this experiment I tried to dry fry slices of aubergine (no oil is allowed in the diet) so as to keep with the traditional layering of meat and veg. That didn’t really go too well; aubergines like their olive oil. Also, I made the cauliflower sauce based on the mac & cheese recipe, which turned out a bit too watery and meant the top layer was very thin. So the second time round, I cooked the aubergine (eggplant) together with the meat in order to overcome the dryness issue, and made a thicker cauli sauce without the addition of water. There were less layers than traditional moussaka, but everything held together much better, and the result was tastier and much prettier!
I used the slow cooker to make the meat part, since this is by far the best method for cooking without oil or any other kind of fat. It’s also a great way to make minced meat sauces in general, as they always benefit from long simmering on low heat. I always leave my Bolognese on for a good 10 hours. If you don’t have a slow cooker I’m sure it would work just fine on the stovetop. Use water to gently cook the onion, then add the meat, and don’t forget to drain the fat before adding the rest of the ingredients. You want the result to be quite thick so watch the amount of liquid you add.
Before it’s cooked , the aubergine needs a bit of alone time with a good sprinkling of salt (don’t worry, it’s rinsed off!). This helps get rid of the bitterness that sometimes comes with this vegetable. I recently heard an interesting tip for those who grow their own aubergines; apparently if you plant them next to basil they’ll be less bitter to begin with!
As regards the preparation of this dish, what I did was make the meat sauce the first day. Then in the evening I made the cauliflower puree. Both went in the fridge overnight. The next day I made the peppers, mixed the puree with the rest of the topping ingredients, layered it all up in the baking dish and baked it. Broken up like that it’s not that big a deal really. And it’s well worth it! Oh, you could also use store bought roasted red peppers, but since they are usually preserved in oil it would be cheating a bit.
If you are not on the Dukan Diet, this is still a recommended recipe. It’s super healthy, low in fat, and very tasty. I suggest you sprinkle some grated cheese on top before baking! (Also allowed in the Consolidation phase of the diet)
Dukan Moussaka – Fabulously Healthy Protein and Vegetable Dish
Slow Cooker Meat Sauce with Aubergines (Eggplant)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 Tbs water
500g minced lean beef
2 Tbs water
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
400g chopped tomatoes with juice + 2 Tbs water to rinse tin
1/2 cup tomato passata
2 medium aubergines, cut into chunks
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper
1 bay leaf
- Prepare aubergines by putting the chunks into a colander and sprinkling with salt. Give them a shake and sprinkle again, so that all the pieces have salt on them. Leave for 20-30 minutes (on a plate, as the veg will release a bit of water).
- Sautee the onion in the 3 tablespoons of water on medium low heat till softened. Add to the slow cooker. Or just put the raw onion in the slow cooker and save yourself a step – to be honest I doubt it makes much difference to the end result.
- Put the pan back on the heat, turn it up to high, and add the 2 tablespoons of water followed by the minced meat. Stir continuously breaking up any clumps. The meat will release fat and juices and start bubbling. When it’s brown all over with no pink showing, add the vinegar. Stir well and let it all bubble till the liquid in the pan has reduced. Transfer meat to the slow cooker with a slotted spoon and discard the remaining fatty juices (this is a diet dish!).
- Add the tomatoes, passata, cinnamon, bay leaf and pepper to the slow cooker. Stir well.
- Rinse and strain the aubergine well. Add to the slow cooker and stir into the mixture.
- Cook on low for 10 hours (I imagine it would be fine after 8, but I was out so I don’t know for sure!). If you are around give it a stir halfway through.
Red Pepper Layer
2 red peppers (I used the long Greek ones, but bell peppers would be fine)
- Cut one side of a pepper from the stalk down to the bottom, then do the same on the opposite side. You want to end up with two big pieces, as wide and flat as possible. These will make up the layer that separates the meat from the topping. Don’t worry about the bottom or sides curling in, they will flatten a bit after they are softened. If necessary, measure the pepper pieces against the baking pan or dish that you will use. If needed, use another pepper.
- Take a large frying pan with a lid, cover the bottom of the pan with water, lay the pepper pieces in it and turn the heat to medium. Cook covered till the peppers are well softened, turning once. Mine took about 30 minutes. My mum suggested that I try doing this in the microwave next time. I wish she’d said it earlier… Anyway, make sure they don’t catch on the bottom of the pan. If necessary turn the heat down a bit or add more water. Set aside.
Cauliflower and Yogurt Topping – The Fake Béchamel
1 smallish head of cauliflower (I forgot to weigh it – I think it was probably about 600-700g). You want it to produce 2 cups of puree.
1 Tbs vinegar
1 tub (200g) Greek yogurt (2% fat)
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
- Cut the cauliflower into florets and put in a pan with a fitted strainer. Add water to the bottom of the pan (don’t let it touch the bottom of the strainer), together with the vinegar. Cover with a tight fitting lid and steam the cauliflower till very soft. (Vinegar helps with the smell!)
- Remove the cooked cauliflower and blend it well, till it’s very smooth. Let cool a little. You want two cups. If you have some leftover, use it as a healthy sauce for meat or fish (you can thin it out with milk if necessary).
- Add the yogurt to the cooled cauliflower puree while stirring continuously, followed by the eggs, pepper, nutmeg and salt. Make sure it’s all well incorporated.
The Dukan Moussaka – General Assembly!
- Preheat the oven to 200C. In a baking tin or dish, evenly spread the meat and aubergine sauce.
- Lay the peppers on top, creating a layer and trying to cover the meat as well as possible.
- Spoon the cauliflower mixture on top of the peppers and level it out. The dish I used is 16x25cm and everything fit perfectly.
- Bake in the hot oven for 50-60 minutes, till it’s bubbling at the sides and firm on top. It will probably start to brown on the top, but mostly around the sides. I couldn’t get mine to brown all over. It didn’t matter!
Other Moussaka recipes – but none of them Dukan!
Moussaka by Brown Eyed Baker
Vegetable Moussaka by The Shiksa in the Kitchen
Leek Moussaka by The Perfect Pantry
And something a little different… Mussaka by FatFree Vegan Kitchen
You really did it! What an accomplishment! Seriously. One of the worst parts about many diets is that one has to go without most comfort foods. Taking moussaka and making it without oil is fantastic and your cooking tips can be used elsewhere. THis was a great post! Thank you!
On Top Of Spaghetti said:
Thank you so much John! I’m so glad it looks appealing. I must say I’m kind of proud of this one, so your comment has me beaming 🙂
Bam's Kitchen (@bamskitchen) said:
Great little invention. So this might not be the perfect after work meal but I bet it is great leftover, even better the next day. I love the meat and aubergine recipe very delicious for so many recipes.
On Top Of Spaghetti said:
Hi Bam, that’s very true! It is indeed even better the next day!