Beef stuffed eggplants

Stuffing vegetables is a very common practice in all of the Mediterranean. Eggplants, capsicums, zucchini, tomatoes or even vine leaves can be stuffed with a meat or rice filling and then baked in the oven. They make a wonderful side dish and can be enjoyed all year round, using whichever vegetable is in season at the time.

Beef stuffed eggplants

My favourite vegetable to enjoy stuffed with beef are eggplants, which are currently in season in Melbourne. Eggplants contain bitter substances which must be drawn out before you cook them. This is done by a process known as degorging, where you cut the eggplant open, sprinkle it with salt and then wait for liquid containing the bitter substances to form on the surface- this liquid is then rinsed away and the eggplants are patted dry.

The filling for these eggplants is basically a meatball mixture, with the addition of the pulp from the inside of the eggplants. As always, the filling tastes better if you make your own fresh breadcrumbs. All you need to do is toast some old bread (in this instance I used wholemeal multigrain bread), roughly tear it up then process it in a food processor until you’ve got breadcrumbs.

Makes 8 serves

Ingredients

4 large eggplants, washed and stems cut off

Salt

Olive oil

800g minced beef

2 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten

1 red onion, peeled and finely diced

1 cup freshly-made breadcrumbs

2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup parsley, chopped

Freshly-ground black pepper

2/3 cup tomato and herb sauce

Method

1. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways. Then using a knife, remove the pulp from the middle of each eggplant half, leaving the shells about 1cm thick. Take care not to cut through the shells as you don’t want any of the filling to fall out. Reserve the pulp.

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2. Sprinkle salt over the 8 eggplant shells, then place them in a colander in your sink to allow the bitterness to be drawn out (this may take an hour or so).

3. While the eggplants are degorging, prepare the filling. Begin by roughly dicing the eggplant pulp.

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4. Next, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, then add the eggplant pulp and gently sauté it until it becomes golden and tender. Remove it from the heat.

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5. Preheat your oven to 190°C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper and lightly drizzle it with olive oil.

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6. In a large bowl, add the minced beef, eggs, red onion, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley and the cooked pulp. Season with freshly-ground black pepper, then stir it well to combine.

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7. Once the bitter liquid has formed on the surface of the eggplant shells, rinse it off then gently pat them dry with some paper towel.

8. Evenly fill each eggplant shell with the beef mixture, pressing it down with a fork. Place the filled eggplants in the baking tray in a single layer.

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9. Spoon about one tablespoon or so of sauce over each of the eggplants. If you like you can also sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese over the sauce.

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10. Cover the tray with foil and bake at 190°C for 45 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake them for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot.

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*If you’d like to use this recipe, please reference this blog- thank you!

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Meatballs baked in tomato sauce

Mmm meatballs. Baked in sauce, accompanied by some crusty bread and a fresh salad and you’ve got yourself a comforting and oh so delicious meal!

I believe the key to tasty meatballs is making your own breadcrumbs. In fact, homemade breadcrumbs improve the taste of any dish which require them. You can use any type of bread that you have on hand (I’d opt for rye bread or wholemeal multigrain bread). For this recipe I toasted some rye bread, then tore up the slices and processed them in the food processor until I had coarse breadcrumbs.

I also like to throw in some diced Swiss mushrooms and I use red onion instead of brown onion. Lots of parsley is important too, as well as adding grated Parmesan cheese.

I like to brown the meatballs before baking them as it adds a wonderful depth of flavour to the dish- use minimal oil in the pan and don’t burn them.

You could also serve these with wholemeal pasta if you’re looking for a more substantial meal. Give these a go for dinner tonight and let me know what you think!

Baked meatballs

Recipe adapted from the Women’s Weekly ‘Bakes & Gratins’

Serves 6

Ingredients

1kg lean minced beef

2 large free-range eggs

1 cup freshly made rye breadcrumbs (see instructions above)

1 red onion, peeled and diced

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnishing

1/3 cup chopped parsley, plus extra for garnishing

1 cup diced Swiss mushrooms

Freshly-ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 brown onion, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 cans peeled tomatoes, minced using a food mill

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 cup frozen peas

1 teaspoon salt

Method

1. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Spray a baking dish with olive oil spray.

2. In a large bowl, add minced beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, red onion, Parmesan cheese, parsley and mushrooms. Season with freshly ground black pepper and mix with a spoon to combine all the ingredients.

3. Drizzle some olive oil on your hands then roll a couple of tablespoons of the mixture in your hands to form balls. I made 16 meatballs with this quantity. Ensure they’re all even in size.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large fry pan over medium heat, then add the meatballs and fry them until they are browned all over, using tongs to turn them over. Remove them from the pan and gently place them in the baking dish.

5. Wash the fry pan, then add 1 tablespoon of oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the brown onion, then after 1 minute add the garlic. Saute until the onion becomes translucent, stirring with a wooden spoon and ensuring that it doesn’t burn.

6. Add the minced tomatoes, oregano, salt, peas and some freshly-ground black pepper. Stir the sauce and cook for a couple of minutes, then pour it over the meatballs. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese (if desired) and bake (uncovered) for 40 minutes at 200ºC. Check to see that the meatballs are cooked through, then garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Baked meatballs

*If you’d like to use this recipe, please reference this blog- thank you!