Legendary Dishes | Vinete Umplute cu Carne (meat-filled aubergines)

ROMANIA

This enigmatic aubergine dish is characterised by a method for pre-cooking the aubergines that brings out the full flavour of the vegetable. Instead of removing the pulp from the centre of a divided aubergine, the pulp is cut into diamonds and the aubergine halves are gently softened in the oven, left to cool and then dressed with the appropriate mixture – usually a combination of mixed minced meats, onions, red peppers and tomatoes in various guises. We have cooked the tomatoes with the meat and added red pepper paste at the second stage.

  • 4 large aubergines
  • 120 ml olive oil

Filling

  • 500 g minced beef / 250 g minced beef + 250 g minced pork
  • 400 g onions, chopped
  • 400 g red pepper paste
  • 400 g tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 5 g black pepper
  • 5 g cinnamon
  • 5 g salt
  • 1 allspice berry (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)

Topping

  • 400 g semi-soft cheese, cut into 8 slices

Preheat oven to 210ºC. Cut each aubergine in half along the length. Using the tip of a sharp knife cut diamonds in the pulp of each half, dress with oil. Repeat with remaining pieces. Place the aubergines on trays, bake for 15 minutes until they have taken on a red-brown colour. Leave to cool completely.

Sauté the onions and, if using, the garlic for 15 minutes until the onions are browned at the edges. Add the meat, fry for a couple of minutes, add the tomatoes and cook until they have released all their juices. Season the mixture and leave to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 190ºC. Stir the red pepper paste and parsley into the meat mixture. Cover each aubergine half with the mixture, top each half with a slice of cheese, sprinkle with cinnamon, oregano and thyme. Bake for 20 minutes.