150-175ml olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
900g/2lb lean minced beef
50ml white wine
1 x 400g chopped tomatoes
1 x 5cm/2in piece cinnamon stick
wild Greek oregano
3 large aubergines
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the topping:
600ml pint milk
50g kefalotiri cheese, finely grated
2 medium free-range eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven at 200C/400F/Gas 6.
For the beef sauce, heat two teaspoons of the oil in a pan. Add the onions and garlic and fry until just beginning to brown. Add the minced lamb and fry over a high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the wine, tomatoes, cinnamon and oregano and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes while you make everything else.
Slice the stalks off the aubergines and cut them lengthways into 5mm/¼in slices. Heat a frying pan until it is jumping hot, add one tablespoon of the oil and a layer of aubergine slices and fry quickly until tender and lightly coloured on each side. Lift out with tongs (every kitchen should have some!), layer over the base of a 2.5-2.75 litre/4 ½-5 pint shallow oven proof dish and season lightly with a little salt and pepper. Repeat with the rest of oil and aubergines and seasoning each layer as you go.
For the topping, melt the butter in a non-stick pan, add the flour and cook over a medium heat for one minute to cook out the flour. Gradually beat in the milk, bring to the boil, stirring, and leave to simmer very gently for 10 minutes, giving it a stir every now and then. Stir in the cheese and some salt and pepper to taste. Cool slightly and then beat in the eggs.
Remove the cinnamon stick from the beef sauce, season to taste with some salt and pepper and spoon it over the top of the aubergines. Pour over the topping and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden-brown and bubbling.
Tips :How to brown mince
Make sure your frying pan is hot. Add a very small amount of oil and allow it to heat up but not so much that it smokes.
Add the mince in small amounts – don’t cover the surface of the pan completely. Adding too much meat will reduce the temperature of the pan and the meat will not brown. It will release all of its liquid becoming tough, stewed and grey.
Avoid over-stirring the mince as it fries. Allow the mince to develop a good brown colour before breaking it up and turning.
If the meat or the oil is beginning to scorch, reduce the heat. Lift the pan off the heat for a minute to allow it to cool down.
Use a slotted spoon to place the cooked mince into a bowl once browned. If cooking several batches of mince, it’s important to deglaze the hot pan between each one with some wine or stock and scrape off all the crusty brown bits stuck to the pan. This is wonderfully flavourful when browned but if allowed to burn, it will give the mince a bitter taste. Set aside the deglazing liquid to use in the sauce when you are making Bolognese or chilli.