This dish comes with two warnings: 1) It is just too delicious, and 2) It tastes even better the next day!
Having avoided nightshades for many years due to IBS, I am now able to reintroduce them to the diet without ill-effects by peeling and cooking thoroughly to reduce the gut irritants to insignificant amounts, and so all hail the kings of a Mediterranean diet – aubergine, tomatoes, bell peppers and chillies. In an effort to reduce the amount of meat I consume, bulking it up with vegetables is a wonderful alternative. The aubergine in particular absorbs the flavours of the dish and retains some consistency while providing valuable fibre. The addition of a small amount of potato holds the flavours and creates a pleasing texture to contrast with the softness of the aubergine and the richness of the mince. The béchamel sauce is enriched with egg yolk, allowing it to set into a creamy top layer lush with the delicate flavour of nutmeg.
This quantity will feed 6-8 people depending on your appetite – very filling!
4 – 6 aubergines. Enough to make two layers in a dish 20x30x8cm.
Peel and slice the aubergines and potatoes in even thickness of 1cm. Layer with slight overlap on greased oven tray and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake at 180°C for about 20 mins until just soft.
600g beef mince
1 large red onion, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 tin chopped peeled tomatoes
2 Tblsp tomato paste
1 teasp sugar
1 glass of red wine
Salt and black pepper, bay leaf.
1/2 teasp ground cinnamon
Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onions until transparent. Add the mince and brown, breaking up to eliminate lumps. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for a minute or two. Add the red wine and allow to evaporate and deglaze the pan, then add tinned tomatoes, sugar, bay leaf, cinnamon and a good amount of salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes until the juices have reduced – this must not be a sloppy mixture!
Meanwhile, make the béchamel sauce. It must have the consistency of thick cream before you add the egg yolk. Warm the milk before adding to prevent lumps and speed up cooking.
Melt 120g butter over low heat then add 120g flour, whisking to combine before slowly adding about 750ml warm milk. Keep whisking and add more milk to get required consistency. Remove from the heat, then add 1 beaten egg yolk and whisk rapidly to combine without curdling. Add a good grating of fresh nutmeg, 1 or 2 teaspoons salt (vital for flavouring whole dish) and 50g or more of parmesan or other hard cheese. Put a large spoon of this sauce into the meat sauce and mix.
ASSEMBLE YOUR MASTERPIECE: Place one layer of potato on the bottom of the oven dish size as above. Add half the aubergine. Add the meat sauce and spread evenly, then place the rest of the aubergine in a layer. Spread the béchamel sauce over the top with a spatula. Sprinkle with more cheese, then bake at 180°C for 40 minutes. Leave to cool before cutting into portions, otherwise it will ooze and look really unattractive, not to mention having been a waste of time with the layering! Can be kept in the fridge for 2 days, as if it would last that long, or frozen very successfully.