Just before Christmas, I moved into my first new home. But after years of subliminal exposure to aspirational John Lewis / Dulux adverts, I’d ended up with a slightly unrealistic view of what to expect. I imagined myself gliding around gaily with boxes; glancing coquettishly at my other half as our hands met over a curtain rail; or maybe suffering a few agonising moments deciding where to put a bouquet of flowers for maximum ‘home-sweet-home’ effect…
I began to realise I’d been lied to at about the same time that I woke up with the mother-of-all-flus on the morning of moving day, which pretty much set the tone for the weeks that followed. After months of living in boxes, we descended to a new low last week when a total-replaster of every ceiling in the house left us with plaster dust on every surface and great globs of the stuff in places you never even imagined possible (seriously, how did it get inside the washing machine?!).
All of which unfortunately coincided with the date I’d set to invite my friends over for our first dinner at the new house. In the absence of any proper furniture (and with the plasterer having broken the sofa), I was basically inviting them round to sit on some knackered sofa cushions, on the floor, and eat off a tiny shin-height coffee table. By the light of an anglepoise. In a house covered in plaster dust.
So the food really needed to say ‘home’.
I found myself remembering the stuffed aubergines that K and I ate at our local Greek restaurant when we first moved into our previous flat. They became a firm favourite, and were called, I believe – Yiotas Slipper. We assumed that Yiota was a woman, and this was her slipper, although lacking any knowledge of Greek I fear I may have got this hopelessly wrong (can any Greek-speaking readers settle the matter?).
The restaurant eventually shut down, and shortly after we moved to the opposite side of London. But the memory of its rich, comforting homeliness persisted. And this week I came up with my very own slipper to feed to my friends, in homage to Yiota – whoever and wherever she may be.
- 2 large aubergines
- 500g lamb mince
- 1 large white onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 50g feta cheese – to top
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Cut each aubergine in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out most of the flesh, leaving a 1 cm aubergine shell. Set the flesh to one side. Arrange the aubergine shells on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven until cooked through (about 30 minutes).
- Meanwhile, chop the garlic and onions finely, and sauté in olive oil in a large saucepan. Once browned, add the lamb mince, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spatula, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned.
- Coarsely chop the reserved aubergine flesh and add to the pan along with the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, cinnamon stick and bay leaf.
- Cook gently, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes, then remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick from the pot.
- Fill the cooked aubergine shells with the lamb mince mixture. Top with crumbled feta, then return to the oven for a further 30 minutes, or until the feta is golden and bubbly.