Friday, 9 December 2011

Papoutsakia


It's official....I LOVE summer.  Greek salad with tomatoes at their very best, fishing with dad for snapper, flatties (you can always rely on the flathead when the snapper aren't biting!), calamari and of course loads of eggplant dishes... Now you obviously can eat all these products all year round but nothing beats the taste of freshly picked organic veggies from the "bakse" garden.





Summer has hit Melbourne for a few days before the cold and rain returns so I made one of my favourite dishes.  Papoutsakia, literally translated "little shoes".  Accompanied by a horiatiki (greek village salad) with lashings of olive oil, crusty bread and a jug of icy cold water.... Yummo..

Papoutsakia are very similar to moussaka but there is no potato involved and the 1/2 eggplant is stuffed with the meat sauce and topped with a creamy bechamel.  Now béchamel is obviously not very greek but it  plays a very significant part of greek cuisine.  One that I'm not to happy about.  Nikos Tselementes was an esteemed chef who trained in Europe and worked in some of the world's finest hotels.  He became famous in Greece for writing a cookbook which included authentic greek recipes and his greek/french fusion recipes...The one and only moussaka!!  He invented this iconic "greek" dish which has its origins in Persia.  He preferred the use of butter over olive oil and the one thing he did which I think single handidly destroyed our cuisine was remove all what he thought to be Turkish influenced ingredients.  Ridiculous!!!!! Lucky I come from Asia Minor Greek stock " the land of Homer " and I don't mean Simpson.   I suppose he wasn't to know that his cookbook was to become one of the most influential books in modern Greece and used religiously by basically all Greek housewives.  Greek cuisine has always been about fusion cooking.  From the days of Alexander were they where influenced by cuisines from all the lands he conquered, from Persia to India! Then the Romans, the Ottomans followed by the Balkans, Venetians the list goes on!    Anyway, enough of the history lesson back to the important stuff...... recipes!

Papoutsakia
Ingredients
4 eggplants
500 grams minced beef
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs tomato puree
1 cup tomato saltsa (passata)
1/2-1 cup water
1 tbs greek oregano
1 cup chopped parsley
salt/pepper
pinch of cinnamon
olive oil

bechamel
2 tbs olive oil
3 tbs flour
salt pepper
2-3 cups milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup fetta cheese

step 1 - eggplants
Cut the eggplant in half length ways leaving the stalk intact.  Score the eggplant ensuring you only cut into the flesh part of the eggplant and not through to the skin. Salt liberally and leave for about 1/2 hour.  You will note that the eggplant releases a lot of moisture at this point.  Rinse the salt off the eggplant and squeeze the eggplant gently to release most of the moisture. Pat dry and then fry on both sides until the flesh is very soft to the touch. Drain fried eggplant on kitchen paper until you finish frying all the eggplants

step 2 - meat sauce
Saute the onion and garlic with the olive oil till translucent and then add the mince meat and brown.  Add the tomato paste and stir till it dissolves.  Then add the tomato sauce, water, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook for about 15-20 minutes.  Add more water if necessary however the meat sauce should be fairly thick.  When cooked add the parsley and stir through.

step 3 - bechamel sauce
Heat the oil in a saucepan and then add the flour and using a whisk stir for about 1minute.  Add milk continuing to whisk until the sauce thickens.  Turn off the heat and add a little salt, a little pepper, the cheese and the egg yolk and whisk until all combined.

to assemble

Place eggplant in a deep baking tray and with a fork spread out the flesh to allow room for the sauces.  Add about 1-2 tablespoons of the meat sauce to each of the eggplant halves and then cover with the becamel sauce.  At this point I mix a bit of tomato sauce and water and add to the baking tray, about 1 cup.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the béchamel browns up.






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