Whatever plans you had for dinner tonight, you’re going to want to change them. These are to die for, and Hubberoo even agrees and he really can’t stand aubergines. Or is that brinjal? No, eggplant? Why does such an unassuming vegetable that doesn’t really feature on the Top Ten of favourite veggies have so many names? The things we think about on a Summer afternoon… I blame the heat.
4 medium-sized aubergines
Good glug of olive oil
Salt & pepper
500g beef or lamb mince (I like it equally with both, so whatever you prefer)
1 large onion, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 fresh tomatoes, cubed
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
2 Tbl soya sauce
2 Tbl worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup beef or lamb stock
1 tin tomato paste (about 2Tbl if yours doesn’t come in tins)
Salt & pepper
250g ricotta cheese
200g mascarpone or creme fraiche
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 handfuls grated Parmesan or mozzarella, or if you’re feeling devilish, a mix of both (reserve the third handful to sprinkle over after)
– Start off by preheating your oven to 180C.
– Cut the aubergines in half length-ways so you have a boat-shaped carrier for your moussakery mince.
– Place them in a baking dish and generously drizzle them with olive oil and a good grind of salt and pepper. Rubbing them all over to coat in the oil and seasoning. Now resist the urge to rub yourself all over. This is serious cooking, not a day at the spa. Get back to work!
– Put the aubergines into the oven and let them bake for roughly 20 – 30 minutes, or until they’re lusciously golden and oozy looking. Meanwhile get on with making the mince filling.
Lazy Cooks Tip: ** For a super speedy mid-week meal I often just defrost some pre-cooked ordinary mince that I made in advance when I really had nothing better to do one Sunday afternoon during a thunderstorm. This can be a real time saver on a frenetic week day. **
Otherwise, if you’re making everything from scratch then get onto making the mince.
– Start by sauteing the onion, garlic, carrot, tomato and celery in a frying pan.
– Add your preferred choice of mince. I actually really like a mix of half – half lamb and beef.
– As the mince starts to brown, add the herbs, spices, fresh tomatoes and salt & pepper. Stirring well to coat the mince evenly with the spices.
– Once that has browned up nicely and starting to smell quite snazzy, add the Worcestershire sauce, soya sauce, wine and tomato puree. Simmering away for about 10 minutes.
– Turn down the heat to just simmering, add about 1/2 cup beef or lamb stock and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally.
– Check your aubergines should be about ready. But don’t rush them. You want them to really caramelize and have nice gooey, easily-scoopable centres. So leave them in the oven for a little longer if need be.
– While everything else bubbles and bakes, you can prep the ricotta topping.
– In a mixing bowl add the ricotta and mascarpone cheeses, egg yolks, nutmeg and parmesan cheese, season well and with a small whisk or fork mix till well combined. You could use a blender for best results, but I was feeling lazy.
– Next it’s assembly time. Remove the aubergines from the oven, leaving the oven on still. Leave them to cool slightly somewhere. Give the mince a stir and add a splash of wine or stock if it’s looking a tad dry.
– Once the aubergines are at a temperature that you can comfortably handle them, using a spoon, scoop out the centres. It looked so frightening in colour that I made it black and white just so you wouldn’t loose your appetite.
– Being careful to leave a thick border of flesh still on the inside, as scraping too close to the outside skin can tear them open. Just a shallow hollowed-out gap is what you should aim for.
– Add the scooped out flesh into the mince and give it a good stir. Even though it may resemble a mollusc from outer space, I promise it tastes way better than it looks right now. Turn up the heat slightly so the aubergine can get a bit of colour.
– Once the aubergine flesh has mixed in well into the mince, scoop out spoonfuls of the mince mixture into the hollowed out aubergine shells. Pushing and flattening out as you go.
– Using a teaspoon, dollop the ricotta mixture on top, also smoothing out and spreading it along the length of the mincey aubergine.
– Once all the aubergines are filled, and covered with the ricotta topping, sprinkle generously with grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese and a dash of paprika.
– Stick them back in the oven to crisp up the topping and get the cheese all melty and golden. Roughly about 20 minutes.