Easy Greek stuffed eggplant (papoutsakia or 'little shoes')
This easy version of traditional Greek stuffed eggplant or aubergine is sometimes called papoutsakia or 'little shoes'. Bake eggplant, stuff with a simple but delicious beef bolognese sauce, top with Greek bechamel sauce and cheese, and bake again. They're cute, they're easy to make ahead or freeze, and they're an easier but just as delicious version of moussaka. Give them a try!
1poundground beefor lamb or chicken/turkey (ground beef = minced beef in UK/Australia)
2tablespoonstomato puree/ paste mixed with about ½ cup/125ml water
salt and pepper
For the béchamel sauce
2cupsmilkwarmed slightly in the microwave or in a pan
2½ouncesparmesan cheeseor Italian pecorino / Greek kefalotiri if you can find it!
2egg yolkslightly whisked (you can also use the whole eggs if you like)
Pre-heat the oven to 355F/180C. Slice each eggplant in half lengthwise. On the cut side, score around the edge of each, leaving around a 1cm border. Then on the inside, score in a criss-cross pattern. Go as deep as you can without slicing through the bottom of the eggplant. This isn't as tricky as it sounds!
Place the eggplant halves on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush all over with olive oil. Turn them over so that the cut side is now down. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the flesh of the eggplant is soft.
Meanwhile, make your meat sauce. Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan, then cook the onion for a few minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon & oregano and cook for a minute longer.
Add the meat to the pan and brown while breaking up with a wooden spoon.
Add the tomato puree, water and wine. Simmer the sauce until it has thickened (about 30 minutes).
Stir in the parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then stir in the flour until you have a paste.
Take off the heat, then stir in the milk little by little.
Put the pan back on the heat and stir until the sauce has thickened and is just bubbling. Add about three quarters of the cheese and all of the nutmeg.
Let cool for about five minutes, then whisk in the egg yolks (whole eggs are OK too).
Assembling & baking
Arrange the baked eggplant (cut side up) in a 12 x 9 inch baking dish.
Use a big metal spoon to squash down the eggplant inside the border you scored.
Spoon some of the meat sauce inside each eggplant. It's OK if it's piled up a bit.
Top each stuffed eggplant with a few spoonfuls of the cooled bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the bechamel sauce is golden and bubbling. Serve with a Greek salad, toasted bread and tzatziki (or Greek yoghurt), or just a nice fresh green salad.
Instructions for making this dish ahead
I sometimes like to make the three components of this dish (eggplant, sauce and bechamel) ahead. This way you can assemble it just before you cook, making for a very easy delicious dining experience!This is especially useful when entertaining. You can even make the sauce way ahead (or make double) and freeze it until you want to use it. The same goes for the bechamel sauce, surprisingly!
You can either prepare the different components of this dish separately and freeze them until later. OR you can assemble the dish completely. After you've topped with the bechamel and cheese, let it cool then cover really well and freeze the whole dish.It will freeze like this for up to 3 months (or even longer but I'd stick to 3 months for it to be at its best). When you want to eat your papoutsakia you can simply defrost the whole dish and bake as normal for 30 minutes until delicious and bubbling.You'll find there's some bechamel sauce left over. I like to freeze this for the next time!
Serving your papoutsakia
Serve with a Greek salad and toasted fresh bread! I also like to serve Greek yoghurt or tzatziki on the side. If you want to keep it really simple, just serve with a fresh green salad!