aubergine bake

Little Shoes of Aubergine

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This is one of these dishes that I loved as a kid as much as I love it now. A true family favourite at many Greek homes around the world. Little Shoes (Papoutsakia) are a Sunday special, a holiday treat and a more indulgent version of the know Imam Bayildi.

Below is a recipe that might convince you that Little Shoes are as easy to make as lasagne, or a pasta bake, if not easier. Little shoes can easily be transformed to a vegetarian version as suggested below. If you are vegan you can remove the béchamel and still have a very tasty special dish. If you use plain wheat free flour for the béchamel you can have a dish for your wheat intolerant friends. This dish can be easily adapted to your taste and needs.

Ingredients

The little shoes
1kg medium sized Aubergines (preferably Tsakoniki akaΤσακώνικη)[1]

The Filling
500gr Quorn mince (or 700gr minced beef for a non-vegetarian version) [2]
3 small onions, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
1 cup of dry white wine
2-3 tomatoes or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 bunch of parsley , finely chopped

The Béchamel
4 cups of milk
1 cup flour
50gr butter
1-2 eggs
Tspn ground nutmeg
1 cup of cheese (graviera or pecorino are preferable)
salt and pepper

Preparation

The Filling

Sauté the onion in a little olive oil with a pinch of salt until nearly translucent.

Add the Quorn or meat mince, season with salt and pepper and stir fry. [3]

For the Quorn mince add a little more oil so that it does not stick to the pan.

For the beef mince keep stirring so that the mince remains separated and evenly browned.

Add the wine and stir for a couple of minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes, the garlic and the parsley, stir, cover and cook.

The filling is ready when the mince has absorbed all the liquid but is not dry.

This should take approximately half an hour for quorn and a bit longer for the meat version.

The Aubergines

Wash the aubergines, cut the stalk end off and slice in half lengthwise.

Bring a deep pot of water to the boil, add the aubergines and boil until they are slightly soft (5-10min).

Drain and cool down.

Lay in a baking tray skin down and with a sharp knife cut a cross shape in the fruit’s flesh

Pull open to create enough space for filling.


The Béchamel

Prepare the sauce whilst the sauce is still cooking and use a cooking whip for stirring [4]

Add the milk to the pan and stir in the flour making sure it is well mixed with no lumps [5].

Place on medium heat and bring to the boil stirring more as the temperature rises.

When the sauce starts simmering lower the heat, add the butter and stir continuously.

Add nutmeg, salt and better and a whipped egg.

Continue stirring on low heat until the sauce thickens.

When removed from heat keep stirring, add the grated cheese and mix well.

The baked dish

Add the filling to the aubergines evenly.

Spread the béchamel on top of the filling.

Bake in a preheated medium temperature oven until the béchamel is golden (about half an hour).

Rest and cool down for 15 minutes before serving.

Notes:

[1] 1kg of aubergines should be 5 medium pieces of the tsakoniki, flask variety. You can cook this disk with the normal aubergine but the tsakoniki variety is much nicer with this dish and cooks faster.

[1] 1kg of aubergines should be 5 medium pieces of the tsakoniki, flask variety. You can cook this disk with the normal aubergine but the tsakoniki variety is much nicer with this dish and cooks faster.

[2] 500grof quorn make more filling than 500gr of minced beef so you might be able to fill an extra pepper.

[3] You can add the Quorn mince frozen to the pan. This should take a few more minutes than when your mince is defrosted. Overall cooking with quorn should be faster than with meat at this but also the sauce cooking stages.

[4] I prefer a flexible wire whip when making béchamel and it helps avoid lumps.

[5] I used plain wheat free flour this time which was very easy to mix in the milk and made a very creamy sauce.

papoutsakia 5

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The lighter Aubergine bake

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This recipe is dedicated to Denise, an extraordinary lady, working at the PDSA in Cardiff.

If you are looking for a simple and light recipe that satisfies your winter cravings in a guilt free manner, I think you are at the right blog.

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Our household is on a health buzz this January, probably like you are, and we feel a lot better for it. The recipe below is the lighter alternative to aubergines recipes like Melanzane al Parmigiano or Moussaka and it is a lot quicker to prepare too.

Many people mistake me for a vegetarian! This is because I don’t normally eat meat more than once a week or every week: there are just too many food groups to choose from! I grew up eating red meat once a week and our family fasted/detoxed a few times a year for 2-3 weeks, gradually giving up different food groups: staring from meat, chicken, fish; moving to dairy; then giving up seafood and sometimes even giving up oils, fats and spices.

It is fascinating that various cultures and denominations incorporate at least one period of cleansing and self discipline in their calendar year. Whatever your way of going through such a process may be, most of you who have will agree that it is worth it.

And why not go a step further this year: why not commit to eating good healthy food all the time? Why not eat less and better sourced meat for ethical, environmental and health reasons? Why not eat less but buy better quality ingredients? And then we can talk about our energy levels and fitness: you might even shed a couple of kilos or more, and maintain that loss in the long term.

The Part-time carnivore campaign, which offers you some options for reducing your meat intake as well as an online quiz that might help you figure our the best option for you is at the moment.

Thanks to Dan Green for the fantastic photos, as ever! And for teaching me technicalities and how to select images!

Aubergine bake recipe, feeds 4-6
Ingredients for a 25cm x35cm baking tray

For the first layer

3-4 large meaty aubergines
Salt
Olive oil

For the second layer
1 ½ portions of basic tomato sauce, with parsley. Click on link for recipe.

For the third layer
1 large onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, one red and one green
1 tin of pre-cooked puy lentils
6-8 chestnut or other mushrooms, roughly chopped or sliced
A couple tbspns chopped parsley
A handful of ground pimento berries
Salt
Olive oil

For the third layer
300gr grated cheddar or parmesan cheese OR a mixture of the two

Preparation

  1. Prepare and start cooking your basic tomato sauce. I suggest you use parsley for this recipe. 25min
  2. Start by cutting off the stem and ‘nose’ of your aubergine. Slice thickly: 2-3cm slices. Each aubergine should give you at least 3 slices. 2-5min.
  3. Salt the aubergines and let rest in a large bowl for 20min whilst your tomato sauce is cooking. This process removes excess water from the aubergine and makes the grilling faster. You can skip this step as your aubergines will grill anyway. 20min, optional
  4. Coat a large non-stick pan with some olive oil and grill the slices in high heat, pressing down firmly with the spatula to quicken the cooking process (removes excess water). For each grill batch you can coat the pan with some olive oil. 15min.
  5. Layer your baking tray with the cooked aubergine slices, snugly and leaving no gaps.
  6. Prepare layer 3: sauté the onion, pepper and mushroom is a tiny bit of olive oil for 10-15 minutes. Season with some salt. Drain and add the precooked puy lentils. Grind a small handful of pimento berries in a pestle and mortar and add to your mixture. Once all juices are absorbed, a coupe of minutes after adding the lentils, remove from heat. Season to taste, if needed. You can prepare this layer as you are grilling your aubergines. 15min
  7. Preheat your grill! 10min.
  8. Add Layer 2, the tomato sauce, which should be cooked by now, evenly to your baking tray on top of the aubergines. Seconds.
  9. Add Layer 3 evenly on top of the tomato sauce. Seconds.
  10. Grate your cheeses to finish off. Seconds.
  11. Place under the grill for 10-15 minutes or until golden. 15min.
  12. Cool down for 10-15 minutes and enjoy! 15min.