Oh how I love this dish!  Thick slices of eggplant replace pasta in this traditional Greek favourite…..layered with a rich lamb and tomato sauce subtly spiced with cinnamon and topped with a thick, creamy bechamel this is not only simple but downright mouthwateringly tasty!

Prep time:  30 Minutes       Cooking time:  1 Hour        $  Low Budget

Serves 6-8

1/2 cup of olive oil

2 large eggplants, sliced 1cm thick

1 large brown onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1kg of lamb mince

1/2 cup of red wine

1 tsp of ground cinnamon

1tsp of dried oregano (Greek Rigani is best but not essential)

1 x 400gm tin of diced tomatoes

1/2 a cup of water

2 tbs of tomato paste

1 tsp of sugar

Sea salt and cracked pepper

For the Bechamel

80gm of butter

2 tbs of plain flour

600ml of milk

pinch of nutmeg

Sea alt and pepper

1/2 cup of grated kefalotyri cheese*

1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Place the eggplant slices on two large lined baking trays and brush each side with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until tender.  (This is the low fat method……uses far less oil but still tastes pretty good!)

Heat a large heavy based pan and add a little olive oil.  Gently fry the onion and garlic until soft and add the mince.  Fry and break up the mince until separated and brown all over.  Add the cinnamon and oregano and fry for 1 minute before pouring in the red wine.  Allow to reduce slightly and stir in the tomatoes, water and tomato paste.  Mix well to combine, sprinkle over the sugar, season with salt and pepper and allow to simmer for approximately 20 minutes until reduced, thickened and lovely and rich. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Melt the butter in a saucepan on a low heat before adding the flour and stirring well with a wooden spoon to combine.  Allow the flour to cook for approximately 2 minutes before gradually adding the milk.  I always like to whisk my milk in as it seems to give me beautifully lump free bechamel.  Stir continually as the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens before seasoning with salt, pepper and nutmeg. When thickened, remove from the heat and set aside.

To assemble, lightly oil a small lasagne dish and place a layer of eggplant on the bottom.  Spoon over a generous amount of sauce and top with more eggplant.  Continue with the rest of the eggplant and sauce, approximately 3 layers, finishing with the eggplant.  Pour over the bechamel and top with the grated cheese.  Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and bubbling and serve with a greek or green salad.

*Kefalotyri cheese is available at most good deli’s however parmesan is a fine substitute…..