On the small, isolated Greek island of Ikaria it is not surprising to meet centenarians.

As The New York Times and The Guardian have reported, the island is one of the five so-called “blue zones” in the world, where the local population outlives the average Westerner by around a decade. Ikaria seems to have found the key to longevity.

The secret of longevity seems to lie in the lifestyle of locals. First of all, their diet is simple and healthy. It contains an abundance of locally grown seasonal vegetables. In particular, they eat wild greens, beans, lentils and potatoes. They refrain from the consumption of refined sugars and they include only moderate amounts of meat in their diet. They daily drink a couple of glasses of locally produced wine, several cups of herbal teas, small amounts of coffee and goat’s milk. Their overall calorie consumption is low. Nonetheless, diet does not give the whole picture. Locals keep themselves busy, maintaining an active lifestyle by working on their farms and in their gardens and by walking reasonable distances each day. They take afternoon naps and in the evenings they meet their friends and neighbours. The community spirit is exceptionally strong on this island and the social life is active. All these factors help the locals to keep good spirits.


Cancer and heart disease are scarce on the island and Ikarians don’t tend to suffer from depression or dementia, either. They not only live long, but they have high quality lives.

In tribute to the long-living Ikarians, I have brought a Greek recipe for you today from Simon Rimmel. Try this vegetarian aubergine and lentil moussaka, with our without the dairy-based topping. The topping makes the dish look more complete. However, I tend to omit it in order to limit our dairy consumption and it is still really delicious without the topping. Consider serving it with some steamed vegetables, e.g. okra, spinach or broccoli to boost your intake of complex vitamins, minerals and fiber.

veggiemoussaka_90770_16x9BBC Food


For the filling:
– 400g/14oz aubergines, sliced into thin rounds
– 50ml/2oz vegetable oil – (try to minimise oil usage and use a good quality olive oil)
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper – (according to taste)
– 1 red onion, finely chopped
– 1 red pepper, finely chopped
– 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
– 50g/2oz tomato purée
– 400g/14oz canned chopped tomatoes, drained – (usage an organic brand, if possible)
– 1 cinnamon stick – (ground cinnamon will do too)
– 100g/3?oz red lentils, cooked according to packet instructions – (if you don’t have red lentils at hand, you may try green lentils)
– 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

For the topping:
– 125g/4?oz ricotta
– 125g/4?oz Greek-style yoghurt
– 3 free-range eggs
– Freshly grated nutmeg – (according to taste)
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper – (according to taste)
– 50g/2oz freshly grated pecorino – (other types of hard grated cheese can be used, too)

Preparation method:
– Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
– Cook the lentils according to packet instructions.
– For the filling, toss the aubergine slices in the vegetable oil, then drain and season with salt and pepper.
– Fry the aubergine slices in batches for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden-brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside to drain on kitchen towels.
– 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 canned chopped tomatoes and cinnamon and simmer for 4-5 minutes.
– Add the cooked lentils and return the fried aubergines to the mixture. Simmer for a further 2-3 minutes, or until warmed through.
– Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the chopped parsley.
– For the topping, beat together the ricotta, Greek-style yoghurt, eggs and grated nutmeg until well combined in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
– Pour the topping mixture into the ovenproof dish on top of the filling. Sprinkle over the grated cheese.
– Transfer the veggie moussaka to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is golden-brown.
– Serve with steamed vegetables and enjoy!

If you wish to read more about the longevity of Ikarians, read on the articles of The New York Times and The Guardian:



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