Melizanes papoutsakia is absolutely delicious, healthy and another classic favourite greek dish. The eggplant and zucchini flavour is mellowed and sweeter when baked with a rich tomato, mince and vegetable filling rendering a melt-in-your mouth meal. Also, it is nice to use a medley of different vegetables rather than eggplants alone. You can always use a combination of heirloom tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants.
Melitsanes Papoutsakia (παπουτσακια) is traditional to the Peloponnese – an area of Southern Mainland Greece. My parents are from this area of greece and do recall this dish being served in late spring and late summer many times when their garden was prolific.
The parsley and mint is fresh and not really a ‘pinch’ of herbs but rather a fair quantity. The mince mixture also includes extra chopped vegetables.
You can top the vegetables off with some bechamel sauce if you like or cook with the tops of the vegetables on and sprinkle a generous amount of feta and a sharp cheese like pecorino or parmegano, and blistered cherry tomatoes prior to serving.
Enjoyed with a glass of chilled red wine in summer and if you like to minimise your carbohyrates during dinner it is perfect for a dinner meal as it is low-carbohydrate friendly and have also toned down the oil quantity to complement our modern palettes. Don’t worry, the taste is phenomenal as I have relied on using the right herbs and spices for flavour instead of relying on a huge amount of olive oil.
Normally, I make this dish over the weekend when we have relatives or friends over during lunch or dinneras I can make a large baking dish worth catering for everyone.
At the moment the eggplants in the garden are thriving and as I don’t like to waste the fruits of my green-thumb labour this dish will be ideal.
Melitzanes Papoutsakia or better known as Greek Stuffed Eggplant. Make this at home, you don't have to be greek to enjoy classic well-loved greek dishes.
- 6 lebanese eggplants
- 6 medium sized zucchinis or eggplants
- 500g lean mince
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 6-8 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1/2 cup parsley chopped and fresh
- 1/4 cup mint chopped and fresh
- 1 medium sized tomato grated
- 1 small tin 250g tin organic tomatoes
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- salt and pepper to taste
- Tomato Sauce
- 1 bottle tomato puree or passata
- 1 tbspn olive oil
- 1 clove garlic chopped
Make the Tomato Sauce
Add the puree, olive oil and garlic into a small saucepan and allow to simmer gently while preparing the dish as per below. You may need to add 1/2 cup of hot water if it is reducing too quickly.
Cut the zucchini and eggplants horizontally. Remove top 1/5th.
Chop onion and garlic.
With a sharp small knife make a cut 1/2 cm away from the outer skin all the way around and score the inside. Use a small teaspoon to hollow out the vegetables careful not to pierce the skin.
Place the eggplants in salty water for 10 mins then drain.
Reserve and chop very finely the inside and tops of the zucchini.
Spray pan with oil of choice and bake each side of zucchini and eggplants for half a minute. Traditionally the vegetables are fried but I find it is sufficient to lightly spray the pan and lightly brown the skin of the vegetables. This step caramelizes the eggplants.
Place cooked vegetables into a large oven dish. Ready for filling.
Add olive oil into a pan and heat. Add the mince and brown well on high heat. Ensure there are no clumps of mince, but evenly cooked meat that is light brown in appearance.
Mix in chopped onion and garlic.
Add the reserved finely chopped vegetables ( from hulling ) and stir through for one minute.
Add tin tomato and reduce heat to medium for 5 minutes.
If I have some extra ripe tomatoes on hand I'll grate those or place in blender and use it in place of the tin tomatoes.
Add the cinnamon, salt, pepper, and half a cup of boiling water. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes in medium heat.
Throughout the 30 minutes stir intermittently and add boiling water if the liquid have evaporated - 1/4 of a cup each time. Start off with the lid on for the first 15 mins then remove the lid so that some of the steam escapes. Don't add too much water each time as you don't want a very watery mix. Allow to reduce down to a thick consistency.
Mix in the fresh herbs, remove the cinnamon stick. Turn off the heat.
Fill the vegetables with the cooked mince and fresh herb mixture.
Pour tomato sauce around the vegetables.
In the last 15 minutes, add crumbled feta and grated parmegiano with more herbs over the tops of the vegetables. I like the cheese melted but not burned. The cheese would have browned if it was added earlier.
Top with Bechamel sauce if you like or seal with the cut tops of the respective vegetables.