Whenever I use mince I always get the best butchers mince I can. My pet hate is springy bits. This is so unctuous and slowly cooked. I split the dish in two to have one in the freezer.
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1kg beef mince
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 thyme sprigs
3 rosemary sprigs
3 bay leaves
2 x 400g cans chopped tomato
glass of red wine
1 beef stock cube
1 tbsp sugar
3 aubergines, sliced lengthways into 5mm slices
2 x 125g balls mozzarella, torn into small chunks
50g Parmesan, grated
250g tub mascarpone
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or flameproof casserole dish. Add the mince and brown over a high heat, breaking up with a wooden spoon as you go. (You may need to do this in batches.) Once well browned, tip onto a plate.
Add the remaining oil, the garlic and herbs to the pan and gently cook for 1 min. Tip in the tomatoes and red wine, and bring to a simmer, stirring up any meaty bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Return the mince to the pan, crumble in the stock cube, and add sugar and seasoning. Gently simmer for at least 1 hr, stirring occasionally, splashing in more water to keep it saucy if you need to. If you have time to simmer for longer, go for it – the longer the better. Fish out the herb stalks and bay leaves.
Meanwhile, heat a griddle or frying pan. Brush the aubergine slices on both sides with olive oil, then griddle in batches. You want each slice softened and slightly charred, so don’t have the heat too high or the aubergine will char before softening. Remove to a plate as you go.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Set aside some of each cheese to go on the top. In a large baking dish spread a spoonful of mince sauce over the base then top with a layer of aubergines and season well. Spoon over some more mince sauce, then scatter over some mozzarella, Parmesan and blobs of mascarpone. Add another layer of aubergines and some seasoning. Repeat, layering everything up and finish with a layer of meat sauce. Top with your reserved cheese and bake for 30-40 mins until the top is crisp and golden and mince bubbling.