Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stuffed Aubergines

Stuffed Eggplants 1 

When I first started cooking for my partner, there were a lot of things he wouldn't eat.  "Doesn't sound like something I'd want to eat" was an expression he used frequently when I made a variety of dinner suggestions.  However, I'm not stupid.  Two of his favourite things happen to be broccoli and chicken, and it didn't take me long to work out that if I worked either of those two ingredients into a dish, I could also manage to sneak in a couple of other ingredients that he might ordinarily have shunned.

And so it was, that over time, I have managed to get him eating aubergine.  Now I wouldn't go so far as to say that he loves them, and he would probably balk at an "aubergine as hero" kind of meal (such as the Aubergine & Lemon Risotto I posted a few days ago), but as an ingredient in a number of dishes he quite enjoys it.

Thumbing recently through my copy of Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros for one of our I Heart Cooking Clubs challenges, I came across her recipe for stuffed aubergine.  Now I would have quite liked to try a vegetarian interpretation of this, perhaps filling them with rice or perhaps some mushrooms, and that is something I will definitely try on another occasion.  But I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I was going to make this dish fly around here it would have to have the meat filling.  So, "what's for dinner tonight?" he asked me, and I've got to tell you he looked positively stricken when I said "stuffed aubergines".  Clearly a leap too far.  "They're stuffed with mince, and feta, and pecorino cheese, and flavoured with garlic and that smoky paprika that you like", I said.  He looked highly relieved by that and agreed to give them a try, but I could tell that he was nervous about it because several times during the day he asked me "remind me what's in those aubergines again?"

Well moment of truth arrived when the dish was served.  He approached the dish somewhat sceptically, though admitted that it looked pretty good.  A nervous mouthful was taken, and then lo and behold the first serving was scarfed down in no time flat, and seconds were requested.  What's more, there was a bit of filling left over that didn't fit into the aubergine shells, which he asked to have for his lunch the next day.  Now that's what I call progress.

I actually made this for an I Heart Cooking Clubs challenge a few weeks ago, and didn't get around to posting it.  However, while we continue to cook with Tessa Kiros, our theme this week is "A Study in Scarlet", challenging us to come up with red or scarlet-hued food.  This seems to fit the bill perfectly, so I'm thrilled to get this post out of draft.  What's more, it's summer here in New Zealand, and whilst we might normally associate summer with lots of leafy green salads, this dish is so reminiscent of dishes I ate in Greece earlier in the year that it will always be a quintessentially summer dish to me.

This is great hot out of the oven, but is also great served at room temperature.  I urge you to try it.

Stuffed Eggplants 2 

Stuffed Aubergines
Adapted from a recipe by Tessa Kiros from
Serves 2 greedy people for a substantial meal
or 4 people for a light meal
or 8 people as an appetiser
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

4 small, long aubergines
olive oil for brushing

Tomato Sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups tomato passata
1 cup water
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

5 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
400g (1 lb) minced beef
3/4 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
150g (5-1/2 oz) feta, diced or crumbled
generous handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).

Begin by making the tomato sauce.  In a medium saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the minced garlic clove, and as soon as it begins to release its fragrance add the tomato passata and water to the pan.  Season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to the boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove the stalks from each of the aubergines and cut them in half lengthwise.  Using a spoon, scoop the flesh out of each aubergine half, to give you a boat-shaped shell.  Chop the flesh that you've just scooped out into smallish dice and set aside.  Now liberally brush the "boats", inside and out, with olive oil.  Place on a shallow baking dish, lined with parchment paper, and put into the preheated oven.  Bake until golden brown and softened but still holding their shape.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

While the aubergine shells are baking, make the filling.  Heat the olive oil and the minced garlic in a large non-stick saute pan set over medium heat.  As soon as the garlic becomes fragrant, add the diced aubergine flesh, celery, and paprika.  Saute until softened and pale golden brown.  Now add the minced beef and cook for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned, stirring from time to time with a wooden spatula and breaking up any clumps of meat.  Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Stir in 1 cup of the tomato sauce and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.  Stir in the pecorino cheese, feta and flat leaf parsley.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Using a baking dish that is just big enough to fit the aubergine shells quite snugly in a single layer, ladle enough tomato sauce into the baking dish to cover the base to a depth of about 2 cm (3/4 inch).  Fill each of the aubergine shells with the meat mixture.  Pat it in quite well with your hands, but take care not to make it too compact.  Place the filled aubergines on top of the tomato sauce, and drizzle with a little more tomato sauce over the top.

Bake for approximately 30-45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and and a golden crust has formed in places.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly before serving.

Serve with a fresh green salad, and some crusty bread.

If you would like to get to know Tessa a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...

IHCC Tessa Kiros Button

... or check out Falling Cloudberries and many of Tessa's other great titles available from Amazon or Fishpond NZ.


I'm also sharing this post at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Lastly, a reminder that the all new Cookbook Sundays begins here this coming Sunday 11 December.  So dust off those cookbooks and come and join the fun.

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  1. Your stuffed aubergines turned out delicious. That gives me an idea for tonight's dinner. It's been a while since I've made anything like this. I hope you're doing well.

  2. Great story--you are one sharp gal, staying a step ahead! Guess what? Your lemon risotto is on my menu next week (can't get it out of my head!)

  3. @Nisrine M Thanks so much - hope you enjoy your dinner tonight :-)

  4. @MMThanks Michelle :-) Hope you enjoy the risotto as much as I did xo

  5. Absolutely adore your stuffed eggplants. Love the way you categorized it. I would make it for 8 people as an appetizer, just to show them I care!
    ...but only a one time deal. Next one, I will be greedy with it!
    So vibrant, beautiful, and totally delicious:D

  6. @Elisabeth Thanks Elisabeth. It would definitely be a lovely dish to serve as an appetiser. Also because everything could be prepared into advance it makes a great dish for serving to a crowd. xo

  7. Oh Sue, these look so good! The perfect side for summer time!

  8. Good idea to include other ingredients in your partner main dishes, that's the way to go!! And I love stuffed eggplants (veggie version of course, but same principle :-).

    Have a good weekend Sue!


  9. Your blog is amazing! Glad you commented so that I could find you!

  10. What a beautiful presentation for your Stuffed Aubergines, they look delicious. We would really enjoy this dish. Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday. Hope you are having a great week end and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  11. I love aubergine - even as hero!
    The stuffed ones look wonderful, I love the lively colours too.
    Cookbook Sundays is a great idea. I need to dust off some of my older ones.

  12. Great way to use those aubergines. Thanks for stopping by. Good to hear that things are back to normal.

  13. I love stuffed eggplant. These are so pretty too--I love all of the color. ;-)

  14. @Miriam Thanks Miriam - you can tell I didn't come down in the last shower :-)

  15. @Alessandra Thanks Alessandra - I can't wait to try these again, making a vegetarian version. Actually, I think they could be great stuffed with the aubergine & lemon risotto I made the other day xo

  16. @Miz Helen Thank you so much - I hope you give it a try :-)

  17. @Natashya KitchenPuppies Thanks Natashya. Seems like there are lots of aubergine lovers out there. Would love you to join in with Cookbook Sundays when you can.

  18. I understand that not-something-i-would-ever-wan't-to-eat expression so well! My husband too is very picky about food. However, as in your case, I often present them in a way he would like, for example: roasted aubergine slices on his pizza. Even better if completely camouflaged by cheese!

  19. @killerontheplate Oh, yes, that's a couple of great strategies - put it on a pizza or cover it in cheese - very clever :-)


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