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Moussaka Stuffed Aubergines | Filled Eggplants

Introduction & method

I'd be the first to proclaim my general dislike of aubergines (eggplants). Despite their fabulously alluring glossy purple skin, the inside manages to be an unpleasant, difficuly-to-cook, slimy mess. But, stuff it with minced lamb or beef, top it with bechamel sauce and golden bubbling cheese and it's transformed into something completely delicious. While I'm not claiming any kind of autheticity, this dish is similar to the Greek dish melitzanes papoutsakia - aubergine little shoes.

Moussaka Stuffed Aubergines | Filled Eggplants Recipe

Timing Timing Timing

This dish involves three main elements, but you can arrange things so that they are all ready when you need them. Once you've got the aubergines salted you can start cooking the meat filling and continue cooking it while the aubergines shells are roasting. Once you've got the filling going, make the bechamel sauce and allow it to cool and solidify a bit before assembly.

Prep the Aubergines

Wash your aubergines and cut them in half lengthways. Keep the stalk on if you can. Place the aubergine halves cut side up on a baking sheet and sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt. Leave them for 20-30 minutes until you see beads of liquid on the suface. Rinse this off, along with the salt, and pat them dry. Heat your oven to 180°C (356°F) for a fan/convection oven, 200°C (392°F) conventional, gas 6. Make criss-cross cuts on the top of the aubergine halves but leave a 5mm (quarter inch) margin around the edge. Scoop the flesh from the centre of each aubergine half, keeping the fleshy margin all round. Dice the scooped-out flesh small and set aside. Coat the inside of each little shoe with olive oil and place in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes then remove and set aside to cool.

Make the Meat Sauce

Peel and dice the onion, and mince the garlic. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. When a small piece of onion sizzles in the oil, add all of the onion and cook for 5 minutes - you want them soft and maybe a bit brown. Add the garlic, cook for a minute, then add the meat. Break it up with a spatula and keep turning it to get it browned all over. Add the tomato passata, cinnamon, yeast extract and parsley. Stir well and simmer for 20 minutes. Now taste it, add salt and pepper if necessary, and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes.

Make the Bechamel Sauce

Melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat, then stir in the flour. Mix well until you have a smooth paste, then gradually add the milk. When it's all mixed in and the sauce is beginning to thicken, add the nutmeg and some salt. When you are satisfied that the seasoning is right, remove it from the heat and let it cool.

Assemble and Bake

If you've turned your oven off, it needs to be set to the same temperature as before. Place the aubergine shoes in an ovenproof dish that is the right size to support them and stop them tipping over. Spoon some meat filling into each one and press it well down. Generously spread bechamel sauce over the meat, and finish off with plenty of grated cheese. Bake for 30 minutes and turn the dish round halfway through.

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Ingredients & Info

 2 medium-sized aubergines
 a sprinkling of coarse sea salt
 a few smears of olive oil
 250 grams minced lamb or beef
 1 medium onion
 2 cloves garlic
 2-3 tbsp tomato passata
 1 tsp ground cinnamon
 half a tsp yeast extract (Marmite or similar)
 3-4 tbsp fresh flatleaf parsley
 500 ml milk
 60 grams butter
 60 grams plain white flour
 1 tsp ground nutmeg
 a pinch of salt
 85 grams parmesan or grana padano cheese

US Customary/Imperial

Serves 2 
Prep time: 15 minutes.
Salting time: 15 minutes.
Cooking time: 1 hour.
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes.