In summer aubergines are at their best. I can think of no better way of cooking aubergines that baking them, this time in a very traditional manner, with rich beef mince sauce and béchamel: melitzánes papoutsákia.
Head straight to the recipe.
Melitzánes papoutsákia is a dish that stands side by side with moussáka and pastitsio. It encapsulates summer tastes in the best way possible: succulent aubergine flesh, the mince done in the classic Bolognese style and a very French top up of béchamel. It is not exactly your every day dish, as it requires a bit of TLC. Normally you will make it for a Sunday gathering instead of your go-to roast.
Where this dish originates? Honestly, I have no clue, in Greek this awkward sounding and impossible to pronounce phrase means ‘little shoes’. Perhaps, if your imagination is vivid enough you could picture it.
I have a hunch that imam bayildi might be its precursor. The vegan sibling is much simpler and perhaps a more welcoming meal in the scorching heat of Greek summer. But guess what, I am in London, so I can very much indulge myself and enjoy the rich sauce. Let’s go make it.
Baked stuffed aubergines with beef mince and bechamel sauce, aka melitzánes papoutsákia
- 4 aubergines
- 400 gr beef mince
- 1 onion
- 400 gr chopped tomatoes (tin or better if fresh)
- 100 ml red wine
- 1 carrot
- 1 clove of garlic
- 3-4 all spice berries
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- a pinch of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of oregano
- 3-4 stalks of parsley, chopped
Bechamel sauce (white sauce)
- 100 gr all purpose flour
- 100 gr butter
- 800 ml milk
- a pinch of nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 150 gr of kefalotyri or mozzarella grated (the combination would be ideal) – this will be shared in the beef mince sauce and the bechamel sauce.
- Preheat the oven at 200C and prepare your aubergines. Cut the aubergines in two, and keep the stems if you wish. Pierce the flesh with a fork and lightly pass a knife to form diamond shaped cuts – it helps with baking.
- Lightly brush with olive oil and place them on a baking tray lined with parchment facing down for 40-45 minutes, the aubergines should come out soft but not quite cooked.
- For the mince meat sauce, start in a large pan by sautéing the onion and after approximately 5 minutes follow up with the minced garlic.
- Put the heat up and add in the beef mince, sauté for another 5 minutes and put off with the wine.
- Once the wine has evaporated, add in the carrot, tomatoes, cinnamon stick, all spice berries, oregano and the necessary pinch of sugar. Let the mince meat sauce come to the boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
- When most of the liquids have evaporated, it’s time to mix in the cheese and a bit of parsley. For the bechamel sauce
- Melt the butter in low to medium heat and start adding the flour gradually, mixing it in as you go. Once you have a golden lump of flour-butter start adding in the milk, warm or at room temperature. Again, you need to be constantly mixing and do not allow these lumps to form. Boil for 2 mins and season with salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg.
- To put melitzanes papoutsakia together, place the aubergines in a tray (skin down) layer with a bit of mince meat, add a bit of cheese and the bechamel on top. Sprinkle a bit of cheese to form a light crust.
- Bake for 20 minutes at 180C in a fan assisted oven so that they get a golden colour.
Do enjoy your melitzanes papoutsakia with a healthy dose of salad!
From London with love,