FOR the last two months they have been holed up in Granada following a coronavirus travel nightmare (see Olive Press Issue 340). But now British couple Yianni Papoutsis, 44, (founder of MEATliquor in the UK), and Sophie O’Hara, 26, have turned lockdown into a culinary showdown. To continue their new series of quarantine recipes for the Olive Press, Yianni draws on his Greek roots to bring us a classic Papoutsakia, which is also a huge hit in Spain. Stay tuned for more and check out their blog @nice.olation on Instagram.

Papoutsakia, serves 2

Stuffed Aubergine B
HEARTY: A freshly baked papoutsakia

I have a childhood memory of my Greek aunt pulling steaming trays full of Papoutsakia (little shoes) out of the oven first thing in the morning, before the heat of the day made cooking unbearable. I used to sneak a couple, scalding hot, there and then although these yummy stuffed aubergines were made to be enjoyed cold over the next couple of days. 

YIANNI AND SOPHIE’S RECIPES:

Even though they grow wild in India and Africa and have been cultivated in China since the fifth century, Europeans missed out on aubergines until they were introduced by the Moors in the Middle Ages.   

Different culinary cultures stuff their aubergines differently – meaty, veggie, vegan. Berenjenas rellenas in Spain are stuffed with mince and topped with béchamel, as they are in Greece. I’ll admit to leaning towards the Greek flavours but anything from Bolognese to minced meat with onions in gravy works, depending on what you fancy. 

Ingredients:

Stuffed Aubergine A
PILED HIGH: The aubergines topped with bechamel sauce
  • 1 aubergine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 250g minced pork, beef or lamb
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 50ml red or white wine
  • 200g tinned tomatoes
  • For the béchamel:
  • 25g butter
  • 25g all purpose flour
  • 220ml milk
  • 50g melty cheese (Tierno, gruyere, Emmental, cheddar etc.)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 handful of parsley

Method

Stuffed Aubergine C
NAUGHTY: Gooey cheese and mince mean this dish is food for the soul

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 180C. Remove the green stem of the aubergine and cut it in half lengthways.  With a sharp knife score a criss-cross pattern over the flesh, being careful not to pierce the skin (but don’t worry if you do).

Step 2

Rub the flesh with olive oil and season heavily with salt and pepper; roast flesh side down for 20-40 minutes until the flesh is soft and the skin is wrinkled. Remove from the oven and cool.

Step 3

While the aubergine is baking, fry the mince in hot oil until it starts to brown, then add the onions, garlic, herbs & spices; cook until the garlic begins to brown. Add the wine, scraping any yummy brown bits off the bottom of the pan and simmer for five minutes until the alcohol has boiled off.  

Step 4

Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Make sure it is not too ‘wet’ or your aubergines will be soggy. 

Step 5

Make the béchamel: melt the butter in a small saucepan on a low heat, then slowly add the flour, stirring continuously until it forms a paste. Be patient and don’t be tempted to turn the heat up too high, it will take about five minutes to cook the flour.  

Step 6

Add the milk in stages, incorporating it all before adding any more. It will slowly come together into a smooth, creamy sauce.  

Step 7

Add your cheese and stir until it has completely melted, then stir in the egg yolk and nutmeg.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Step 8

Assemble the shoes! Mash the aubergine flesh with a fork until you’ve hollowed out a container for the meat.  Fill the aubergines with the meat, then spoon the béchamel over the top.

Step 9

Cook in the oven at 200C for 20 minutes or until the bechamel has turned golden brown.  Garnish with parsley and serve hot with red wine or cold with white wine, and a couple of slices of crusty bread.

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