A vegan version of a classic Greek dish made with eggplant, lentils and olive oil mashed potatoes.
We wish you could all read Greek! Because if you did, you would realize that the name for this recipe is so much more wonderful in Greek. The literal translation for παπουτσάκια (pronounced pa-poo-tsa-kia) is little shoes. How utterly adorable and perfect is that! And how much more charming than stuffed eggplant.
This dish is so named in Greek because when served they can look like little eggplant slippers, or eggplant ballerina flats. As a shoe-lover from birth this cute little name did cause disappointments however. Picture the scene: you tell your parents, in Greek, that you really want shoes, they respond with a reassuring and enthusiastic of course!, and then, they serve you eggplant. No matter how delicious, you can’t wear these papoutsakia to a party.
This particular version of stuffed eggplants is vegan, making it a perfect option for periods of Orthodox lent, or for people who normally abstain from animal products. It’s also gluten-free, which makes it even more accessible to people.
Do not be intimidated or turned off by the long list of ingredients and the long recipe. This is not a complicated or expensive dish to make. Be sure to read the Recipe Notes in the recipe box; there are tips there which will allow you to decrease the preparation and cooking times.
If you don’t have a piping bag for the mashed potatoes, don’t worry. Use the back of a fork to spread the potato around the eggplant filling and call this meal rustic.
Looking for more recipes starring eggplant? Here you go!
Wash your eggplants and remove the stem with a sharp knife (be careful as the stems can have pointy thorns on them). To remove the stems slide the knife under the stem (between the eggplant and the stem) and cut it away at an angle (see photo on post). Once the stem is removed, cut the eggplant in half, lengthwise.
Using a sharp paring knife, and being careful not to pierce the skin, make crisscross cuts into the flesh of the eggplant; begin approximately 1/2 inch away from the outer skin, meaning that you should leave about 1/2 inch of uncut boarder around the eggplant flesh (see photo on post)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of salt onto the cut side of each eggplant. Turn flesh side down and allow to drain in a colander for approximately 30 minutes (see photo on post)
After 30 minutes, rinse the salt off of your eggplant and brush approximately 1/2 tablespoon of oil onto the cut side of each eggplant half. Place, cut side down, onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Use any remaining olive oil to brush lightly on the skin of the eggplant. Bake, in the lower rack of your oven, for approximately 40 - 45 minutes. Your eggplant is ready when you can easily pierce the skin with a sharp knife. Remove the eggplant from the oven, and using a spatula and a spoon or fork to help you, flip the eggplant over so that the flesh side is up.
While the eggplant is still warm, carefully use a spoon to scoop out the eggplant flesh, being careful not to tear the eggplant skin. Set the eggplant flesh aside in a bowl.
To prepare the lentil filling
Pick through your lentils to remove any shriveled ones, and any small stones. Rinse well and soak in a bowl of cold water for 20 - 30 minutes.
After soaking, drain your lentils, rinse them and place them in a pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Cook, uncovered for approximately 20 - 25 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked. Drain and set aside.
In a large pot combine the 1/4 cup olive oil, diced onion, slivered garlic, diced carrot and dry oregano. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes. Add the lentils, tomato sauce, water, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring regularly, for approximately 15 minutes. Your mixture should be thick and stew-like. If it appears too dry and risks burning, add a little more water.
Add the eggplant flesh which you have reserved to the lentil and vegetable mixture in the pot and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Mix well and cook for an additional 2 - 3 minutes.
To prepare the mashed potatoes
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add in the peeled and diced potatoes. Reduce heat and cook potatoes over medium heat until they are easily pierced by a sharp knife; this will take approximately 20 minutes, depending upon how large you cut your potatoes.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the water that the potatoes were cooked in and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Mash your potatoes. If they appear too dry, add more of the cooking water.
Assemble the stuffed eggplants
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you notice that liquid has accumulated into your hollowed out eggplant, use a paper towel to gently soak it up (see photo on post).
Add approximately 1/2 cup (or enough to fill your eggplants without having the filling overflow) of the lentil mixture to each of the hollowed out eggplants. You may have extra lentil filling left over; see the Recipe notes for ideas on how to use it up.
Divide the mashed potatoes evenly over all 4 eggplant halves. You can either pipe the mashed potatoes onto the stuffed eggplants or use a fork to spread it to cover the filling.
Bake, uncovered for 20 minutes, or until heated through and the potatoes are slightly crisped and have some color on top (you may want to use the broiler option for the last few minutes).
You can reduce the total preparation and cooking time of this recipe by doing some things simultaneously. For example you can:
Salt and drain your eggplants while soaking your lentils.
Begin preparing your lentil filling and your mashed potatoes while your eggplants are roasting.
Furthermore, you can make all of the components for the stuffed eggplants the day ahead, store everything in the refrigerator, and then assemble and bake the next day.If you find yourself with extra lentil filling, it is delicious served on top of crostini or toasted baguette slices. It is also wonderful mixed in with pasta.