Papoutsakia or stuffed eggplants translates to ‘little shoes’ in Greek. It is one of the many Ladera (pronounced lathera) dishes, cooked with lots of good olive oil and served as a main course. Thomas ‘Please’, our waiter from Dolphin Taverna, in Plaka near Leonidia (a region famous for the Tsakonikan variety of eggplant) was especially proud of his. The meat-free version is known as Imam Bayildi, which is translated as ‘The Prophet Fainted’ – because the dish was so delicious.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
2 medium (600g) eggplants (aubergine)
¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
250g beef mince
200g tinned tomatoes
2 tablespoons (50g) tomato paste
Freshly ground pepper and salt
1 tablespoon (20g) soft butter
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 cup (250 ml) milk
Pinch of nutmeg
1 egg yolk, beaten
1¼ cups (125g) grated kefalotyri, keflograviera or kasseri cheese (or pecorino or parmesan)
- Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Line a medium baking dish with baking paper.
- Halve eggplants lengthways and carefully scoop out flesh, leaving a 1cm border. Dice the flesh finely and reserve.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook eggplant halves, skin side down until wilted and slightly brown. Turn them over and fry on the other side until brown, approximately 10 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Place cut side up in a prepared baking dish.
- Using the same frying pan add the remaining oil. Fry onions and garlic over low heat, stirring often. When soft, add beef and eggplant flesh, stirring often to brown well. Add tomatoes and tomato paste, season well with pepper and salt, mix well and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, to make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it froths. Add flour and stir for 2 minutes. Pour in milk, whisking constantly until the mixture becomes thick and smooth. Add nutmeg, egg yolk and cheese. Whisk until smooth.
- Spoon the meat mixture equally between eggplant halves, pressing in firmly. Pour over the cheese sauce and bake for 30-35 minutes or until heated through and the tops are golden.
Related Recipe: Semolina-crusted eggplant with honey and chilli