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Stuffed eggplants with minced meat and bechamel (papoutsakia)

Μελιτζάνες παπουτσάκια Source: supplied by Angela Nicolettou

Τhis is a recipe with a most unusual name: 'papoutsakia' which means 'little shoes'. Regardless, these stuffed eggplants with minced meat and topped with bechamel are delicious. Follow Angela Nicolettou's recipe for certain success.

Μελιτζάνες παπουτσάκια (stuffed eggplants with minced meat & bechamel)

Ingredients

1kg Lebanese eggplants

Extra virgin olive oil

500g beef mince

1 onion, diced

1 can diced tomatoes

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

50g butter

50g flour

500ml milk

100g grated kefalotiri or parmesan, plus extra for garnish

Nutmeg

Method

Remove a thin slice of skin, longwise form each eggplant and then cut, lengthwise again into the flesh so that it will open up when cooked. Sprinkle with salt and leave for at least 30 minutes. When ready to use, wash off the salt and pat dry.

Heat oven to 180C. Brush eggplants with olive oil, making sure to drizzle some onto the cut. Place in a baking dish lined with baking paper and roast until eggplants soften (about 30 minutes). Remove from oven.

Cook onion in a medium saucepan with 2 tbs olive oil, until just soft and then add the mince and brown, making sure you break it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon and allspice and season with salt and pepper. Add about 1 cup of water and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. You want to make sure the mince mixture is not too wet when ready, if needed continue to simmer until most of the liquid evaporates. Remove from heat.

In a small heavy based saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour, stirring constantly until the mixture just begins to brown. While continuing to stir, slowly add the milk. Keep mixing until the béchamel begins to bubble and thicken. Remove from heat and stir through the grated cheese.

To assemble, take a baking dish and add the cooked eggplants, cut side up. Use a spoon to open the eggplants slightly to create a space to add the mince mixture (a bit like a shoe, as the name of the dish indicates). Spoon in mince mixture and then add a layer of béchamel on top. Finally top with some extra grated cheese and sprinkle some nutmeg on top. Bake at 180C for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.  

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