Stuffed aubergines

Main course: Serves 2. Total time: 2 hrs

For the minced lamb stuffing
2tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
1dsp tomato purée
250g minced lamb
salt and pepper
1 small glass red wine
1tbsp chopped mint
2 aubergines (approximately 150g a piece)
salt
olive oil
For the bechamel sauce
250ml milk
½ small onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove
1 small bay leaf
salt and freshly ground white pepper
25g butter
30g flour
2tbsp single cream
freshly grated nutmeg
2 small tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced
a little grated feta cheese

To make the meat stuffing, first fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil until just beginning to colour. Add the cinnamon, cumin and cayenne pepper. Cook together gently over a low heat until fragrant, before adding the tomato purée. Mix this in well and allow it to change from tomato red to rusty brown over five quiet minutes of slow stirring with a wooden spoon. Introduce the minced lamb, now, briskly stirring the meat around over a higher heat until it begins to separate out into small, glistening nodules. Season with salt and pepper and pour in the red wine. Bring up to a gentle simmer (use a heat-diffuser pad if you have one) and allow to stew very gently for 45 minutes to one hour, if not longer. An hour and a half, in fact, would possibly be even better. If you are at all concerned about keeping a look out, simply pop on a lid and leave it be in a low oven.

Note: depending upon the quality of the lamb, do take note of how much fat has exuded from it after cooking. If you are at all concerned, drain the mince through a coarse sieve suspended over a large bowl. Allow to drain for 15-20 minutes, return the mince to the pan and then, using a spoon, remove the surface fat from the collected juices and discard. Now return the degreased juice to the mince and stir in.

Cut the aubergines in half lengthways, attempting to cut directly through the middle of their stalks, too; aesthetically speaking, this little mirror-image manoeuvre has always seemed worthwhile to me, but you may think otherwise ... Using a small, sharp knife, make a neat and deep criss-cross pattern into the flesh of each aubergine half, neither cutting too deep nor rupturing the skin that surrounds the flesh. Sprinkle the surface of the latticed flesh with fine salt, but only enough for seasoning. Allow the salt to soak in for 10 minutes or so and then turn the halves of aubergine over, suspended, perhaps, over a rack or in a colander. Leave to drain for a further 20 minutes or so. Preheat the oven to 375°F/ 190°C/gas mark 5.

To make the bechamel sauce, heat together the milk, onion, clove, bay, salt and pepper. Simmer for a few minutes, cover and allow the flavours to mingle for about 10 minutes. In another pan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Make a roux and gently cook the butter and flour together for a minute or two, before straining over the infused milk. Vigorously whisk together until smooth (this always gets rid of any lumps) over the lowest possible heat and, using one of those heat diffuser pads if you have one, set the sauce to quietly blip for 7-10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the cream and nutmeg and whisk in thoroughly. Strain again into a clean pan and put a lid on; this helps to prevent a skin forming. Reserve until needed.

Gently squeeze each drained aubergine half in the hand to expel excess juice and then dry with a tea towel. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan and briefly fry the aubergine (cut-side down) until golden. Flip them over, drain off any excess oil and continue to cook for a further five minutes. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or so, until soft. Remove and allow to cool. Scoop out most of the flesh on to a chopping board, while also making sure that a modicum of robustness is retained within their now slightly flaccid surrounding skins. Carefully arrange these in an oven-proof serving dish, tucked up together in readiness to receive their meaty cargo. Coarsely hand-chop the scooped-out aubergine flesh and add to the minced lamb along with the chopped mint. Stir well.

To assemble, fill the aubergine skins with the mince until full and slightly "domed''. Arrange three slices of tomato along the surface of each, so neatly covering the minced lamb. Spoon over enough of the bechamel sauce so that it entirely blankets the tomato slices and also flows down between the aubergines, too. Sprinkle the surface of each aubergine half with a little grated feta cheese, slide the dish into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until all is good and hot, slightly blistered here and there and bubbling merrily around the edges.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project