This dish brings the flavours of a moussaka without all the calories. For as much as I love a traditional moussaka, it does tend to do a bit of oil-leeching on the plate – not a good sign if you’re watching your figure.
Small eggplants are the best option here as they are the right size to fit on a plate, and tend to be less bitter than the larger, more mature ones. If you can only find giant ones, you may find half an eggplant is plenty, per person. Be prepared to add a bit of honey to the filling to offset any bitterness.
Adapted from a Hairy Dieters recipe, with thanks and gratitude. (And less a good few inches.)
For the stuffed eggplant:
4 small eggplants (aubergine)
Salt and pepper
500g mince lamb
1 cup chopped onion
2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried mint
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup dry red wine
2 tbsp tomato puree
500ml semi-skimmed milk
4 tbsp cornflour
Grating of nutmeg
Grating of parmesan (approx. ½ cup)
To serve: chopped parsley and mint
For the rice:
1 regular mug of basmati rice
2 regular mugs of water
½ tsp fine salt
Zest of 1 lemon
Handful each of chopped parsley and mint
Preheat the oven to 400F / 200C / 180C Fan.
Halve each eggplant lengthwise, through the stem. Keep the stem intact as it looks pretty, and it helps to keep the eggplant together after it’s cooked.
Place the eggplant halves on a baking tray. Use a paring knife to score the cut sides right into the flesh but not through the skin. You can create a checkerboard pattern or just make slashes – it won’t matter in the end. Drizzle each eggplant lightly with olive oil, rubbing a little into the skin, as well. This vegetable will suck up as much oil as you’re willing to give them, so go easy. Sprinkle over some salt and pepper, then roast for approximately 35 minutes (or longer, if they’re large), until the flesh is soft, lightly charred and golden. Set aside to cool slightly.
When the eggplants have cooled slightly, use a spoon to scrape out the flesh into a bowl, taking care not to tear the skin. Set the skins aside until they are ready to be stuffed.
To make the filling, place a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. All at once add the minced lamb, a good pinch of salt and pepper, chopped onion, garlic, oregano, dried mint, 2 bay leaves and the cinnamon stick. Allow it to cook together, stirring often, until the lamb has browned and the onion has softened. Add the red wine and allow it to reduce, then add the tomato puree. Cook for a couple more minutes, then add in the reserved flesh scraped from the eggplants. Cook for a further 10 minutes until everything has cooked into each other and you have a cohesive mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning if required. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick; discard.
Spoon the filling into the waiting eggplant skins.
Make ahead: Dish can be prepared up to this point 24 hours in advance. Keep refrigerated.
Just before baking, make the creamy topping. (It will form a skin if left to sit, so making ahead isn’t an option.) Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C / 175C Fan.
Measure out the milk, then pour a little of the milk into a small bowl. Add the cornflour to the small bowl and mix to combine. Set aside for a moment.
To a saucepan add the remaining milk, remaining bay leaf, a grating of nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to just below simmering point. Add the cornflour and milk mixture, stirring constantly. Keep stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Spoon the sauce over the stuffed eggplants, then finish with a fine grating of parmesan cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden and the filling is hot.
While the eggplants are baking, make the rice. All you do is add the rice, water and salt to a saucepan. Cover and bring to the boil, then as soon as it begins to boil turn the heat right down to the lowest possible setting. Leave to steam until almost all the water has been absorbed. Add the lemon zest and herbs, then fork through to combine.
Serve two halves of eggplant per person with a generous mound of rice. Sprinkle over a final scattering of parsley and mint to serve.