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Aubergines Stuffed with Moussaka

Now we can so easily buy fresh ready-minced lamb, making an authentic Greek moussaka is far easier than it used to be. This recipe gives a new twist on the theme by actually putting the meat filling inside hollowed-out aubergines and the sauce on top. This looks attractive and means it's all ready to serve in neat portions. If you've got very hungry people, I would say this serves 4, giving everyone two halves. But if they're not such hungry people, it serves 6, giving them one and dividing the remainders for seconds.

 
 

This recipe first appeared in Sainsbury's Magazine.

Method

First of all, wash the aubergines and cut them in half lengthways, leaving the stalk attached. Then, using a potato peeler, grapefruit knife or even a teaspoon, hollow out the centre, leaving a shell of about ¼ inch (5 mm) thickness, reserving the flesh in a bowl. Now sprinkle the shells with salt and leave them turned upside down on a work surface for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in your largest frying pan and fry the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes. 

After that, turn the heat up to high, add the minced lamb and brown it for a few minutes, turning and keeping it on the move, then chop the reserved aubergine flesh roughly and add this to the pan. Now cook the whole lot, stirring all the time, for about 2-3 minutes, then reduce the heat. In a small bowl, mix the mint, parsley, cinnamon, tomato purée and red wine.  When they are thoroughly combined, pour over the meat, season well, then cook the whole lot very gently for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time so it doesn't catch on the base of the pan. 

While that's happening pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C). Wipe the inside of the aubergines with kitchen paper, lightly oil the skin and inside surface of each half and place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet, putting them side by side to fit quite closely. (If they're quite round and you have trouble making them sit straight you can add a little crumpled foil to hold them in place.)

Now divide the filling equally between the aubergines, then place the baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven and bake them for 1¼ hours or until completely soft when tested with a skewer. While the aubergines are cooking you can prepare the topping. All you do is place the milk, flour, butter and grated nutmeg in a saucepan and, using a balloon whisk, whisk until it comes up to simmering point and it becomes a smooth, glossy paste. 

Then turn the heat down to its lowest setting, adding a seasoning of salt and pepper to taste. Remove it from the heat, pour it into a bowl and let it cool a little before whisking in first the ricotta cheese and then the beaten egg. Now cover the sauce with clingfilm until you're ready for it.

When the 1¼ hours are up, remove the baking sheet from the oven, increase the temperature to gas mark 5, 375°F (190°C) then divide the sauce between the aubergines, spooning it on and spreading it over the meat. 

Sprinkle with the Parmigiano Reggiano then return them to the oven – this time on the highest shelf – and give them another 25-30 minutes until the topping has puffed up and turned golden brown colour.

 

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