People living in Mediterranean countries tend to choose the healthiest things to eat, I read once. And I didn’t doubt it for even a second – wide choice of veggies, topped up with bits of olives and lovely cheeses, is the confirmation that you can eat healthy while enjoying what you taste, according to a popular belief (Dad, I wish you were reading me now!). And all that stuff like eggplants? I’m signing up for that with my both hands.
There is a “but…” to it, however: I had never liked lamb meat much in the first place. I always felt there’s something lacking, and if its flavour was not killed by something else, then I would have a hard time enjoying the meal. On the other hand, I don’t really think I’ve got the chance to find my favourite lamb combination – never really tried it until I’ve got the chance to get my hands on the richness of ingredients in the UK. I know, I know, I’m repeating myself; but after trying the endless combinations of stuffed eggplant, I decided to slice it and try something moussaka-shaped, without the difficulty of cutting it into pieces.
If you don’t feel like cutting a large dish of moussaka into tiny pieces, those little rolls are for you. You just make them, put them on the plate, and enjoy. Sounds simple? It really is that easy. They will make a lovely little starter for a bigger meal, or a main served with a nice flatbread and sauces.
Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a starter | Preparation time: active 25min, total 1h
3 small eggplants (Preferably ones which can be easily cut in fairly long, wide strips)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
300g of lamb mince
1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon of dried mint
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon of allspice
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
A pinch of chilli
3-4 tablespoons of grated mozzarella
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius degrees/gas mark 5.
Cut the eggplants into long strips, around 1/2 inch thick. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put them into slightly greased baking dish. Roast them in the oven for about 8 minutes, turning them to the other side halfway through cooking. Set them aside to cool down so that you can handle them easily.
In a tiny container, mix the dried mint, basil, cinnamon, allspice, oregano, nutmeg, nutmeg, sweet paprika, chilli and half a tablespoon of pepper.
Heat the olive oil in the small pan. Add onion and fry it for a few minutes, until it becomes golden. Add garlic and fry for a minute more. Add the minced lamb and fry it until it becomes brown, stirring it constantly to break the meat into tiny, coarse bits. Pour the chopped tomatoes and the lemon juice over the contents of the pan and mix in all the spices. Lower the heat and cook the mixture until it becomes very thick, then set aside till it cools down a little.
Re-grease the baking dish you used to roast the aubergine. Place a spoonful of the meat filling on the each strip and roll them. Put them in the dish, with the seam side of each roll down. Bake them in the oven for around 5 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the dish and let it melt – it should take around 2 more minutes in the oven.
Serve with a warm flatbread, olives, lemon halves to squeeze over the dish, and Greek yoghurt or tzatziki sauce.