Papoutsakia, or, Little Shoes, Close Relation to Moussaka. Greek Cuisine

Papoutsakia Little shoes, close relation to moussaka!
Little shoes, close relation to moussaka!

Summer is here, bringing  with it my favourite vegetable; aubergines, big, fat, purple aubergines!

Now, when you think of aubergines and Greece, you’re thinking of moussaka, right?

But, did you know the most famous dish of Greece; moussaka, has a close relation, “Papoutsakia”, in English “little shoes”?

Moussaka Photo by "Mediterranean Dish"
Photo by "Mediterranean Dish"

“Papoutsakia” are called “little shoes” because, yes, you guessed it, they resemble little shoes!

In my opinion, “Papoutsakia” are, (Dare I say it?) far superior to moussaka, and easier to prepare, using more or less the same ingredients, only the potatoes are missing, no great loss!

Large, oval aubergines, cut in half, length-ways, filled with meat sauce, and topped with béchamel sauce, do indeed look like little shoes.

So, here we go, my first “Papoutsakia” of the summer, surely to be made again and again before autumn descends, MGG (My Greek God ) loves them, but Johnny, my son, would simply die for them!


Makes 8 pieces

4 large aubergines, (about 1. 5 kilos)

300 - 400 ml olive oil for frying

Meat Sauce

500 g minced beef

2 large onions, finely chopped (for ease, use a food processor)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

300 ml tomato passata, or tomato juice

½ tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp dried basil

50 ml olive oil

Béchamel sauce

120 g plain flour

125 g butter or margarine

2 eggs

600 ml milk

½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

½ tsp ground nutmeg

100 g grated Kefalotiri cheese, or Parmesan


Heat oven to 200 degrees C

Cut the aubergines in half length-ways, (Don’t peel) and sprinkle generously with salt.

Leave for about 30 minutes, until they "sweat" this will remove any bitterness from the aubergines.

Sprinkle aubergines with salt
Sprinkle aubergines with salt
Meat Sauce

While the salt is doing its thing with the aubergines, make a start with the meat sauce, heat 50 ml of olive oil in a pan, sauté the chopped onion and garlic, for about 5 minutes.

Add the minced beef and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, add tomato passata, salt, pepper and dried basil, leave to simmer for about 30 minutes, the sauce needs to be quite thick, so as to stay on the surface of the aubergines, and not slide off.


Rinse the aubergines well, under running water, gently squeezing out any excess water. 

Aubergines, "sweating" our the bitterness.
Aubergines, "sweating" out the bitterness.

Put the 300 – 400 ml olive oil in a 10 inch frying pan, and heat to a high temperature, add aubergines, lower to a medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes, turn aubergines, and cook for another 5 minutes, or until aubergines have softened (You may have to do this in two batches)

Remove aubergines from pan, leave to drain on absorbent kitchen paper.

Béchamel Sauce

Melt the butter, or margarine, in a pan, over a low heat, remove pan from heat and add flour, a little at a time, mixing, until the mixture falls away from the sides of the pan, and has formed a ball.

Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, stirring; a whisk is perfect here, to avoid lumps forming.

Add salt, pepper and ground nutmeg.

Return the pan to the heat, and, mixing continuously, bring to the boil.

As soon as the béchamel is boiling, remove from heat, let cool slightly, 10 minutes or so, add egg, mix well and add grated cheese, the béchamel needs to be rather thick, to sit on top of the meat sauce.

A rather thick bechamel sauce.
A rather thick bechamel sauce.

Putting it all together!

Place aubergines into a 35 x 30 cm rectangular baking tin, or any ovenproof dish that will hold all 8 aubergine halves.

With the back of a spoon, press down on the aubergines, making a small hollow, some recipes say to cut out a hollow of flesh before frying the aubergines, but why waste this delicious vegetable?

Make hollows in the fried aubergines with the back of a spoon.
Make hollows in the fried aubergines with the back of a spoon.

The frying has softened the aubergines, and its easy to make hollows with the back of a spoon.

Place about one heaped tbs of meat sauce into each hollow.

Fill hollows with meat sauce
Fill hollows with meat sauce

Spread a thickish layer of béchamel, over the meat sauce. (1- 2 tbl )

Spread bechamel sauce over meat sauce
Spread bechamel sauce over meat sauce

Bake in the oven for about 30 – 40 minutes until béchamel is golden brown.

Papoutsakia, tomato & basil salad and feta cheese.
Papoutsakia, tomato & basil salad and feta cheese.
Serve with salad, feta and fresh crusty bread.


Why not try some more Greek goodies?
See below.


Oh my, here I sit thinking it is too hot to cook at our Stone House on the Hill to your south and then I come across this recipe and post. My mouth is watering - this is a keeper! Happy summer!! J. xx
Herry Milson said…
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