Results tagged “aubergine”

The case of the Arabic aubergine


We ate all the pies

For most British tourists, Greece is essentially a succession of islands and beaches.  For us, it was mostly a succession of pies.  We'd had börek in Turkey, heard talk of burek in Bulgaria; but it was in Greece that the bourek really came into its own.

Smsausagecheesepies0001.jpg For one thing, we generally avoided the islands (making an exception for Crete), and spent most of our time on the mainland, where most of the food (and wine) is - and discovering quite a different Greece from the one we'd seen before.  But for another, we quickly found that Greeks don't really go for big breakfasts.  After our twenty-three-jam feasts in Turkey, this left us with big breakfast-shaped holes, for which there was only one solution: pies.

OK, and cheese.  And spinach.  And quite a lot of weeds.  But if you try hard enough, you can get all those into pies too.  And we did ...

Ottoman or not?

bulgaria, greece, romania, turkey
Now that we've spent some time in Turkey, some in Romania and Bulgaria before that, and now some in Greece, it's been interesting to try to spot various culinary connections between them.  It's not all pleasant, but they have a lot of shared history via the long presence of the Ottoman empire in Eastern Europe.  Greece was under Ottoman control for hundreds of years; and while Romania (and especially Transylvania) was nominally independent for much of that time, the word "nominally" should be stressed.


Ottoman chefs: could they tell their
aubergines from their tomatoes?

In some cases, of course, there are clear similarities in techniques and ingredients, but there's really no way to know whether Romanians influenced Turks, or Turks influenced Romanians, or whether they both just thought that spicy meatballs tasted nice.  But in others, you can get some help from the language: if a stuffed vine leaf in Greece has an originally Turkish name, the odds are that it has at least some Turkish origins.

But sometimes we have to do a bit more detective work.  In Romania, the word for tomato is "red" (roşie), and the word for aubergine is "purple" (vinete): so you might ask your greengrocer for a kilo of reds and a kilo of purples.  This does sort of make sense - tomatoes are red, after all, and aubergines are purple - but why just these two?  They don't call cucumbers "greens".  And tomatoes certainly aren't the only red things in a Romanian kitchen, what with all those peppers around.  Well, a conversation with Anca in the Carpathians, a conversation with Özge in Istanbul, some dictionary work, and all became clear ...

Ten Turkish tastes

Copy (1) of Smzelispazaraubergines0001.JPGIt's ridiculous to try to sum up Turkish cuisine in 10 flavours.  Turkish cuisine is hugely rich and infinitely varied, not least because a) Turkey's absolutely enormous - have you looked at a map recently? - comprising three different coastlines, high snowy mountains, very hot, dry plains and lush wooded hillsides, among other things, and b) its cooking has been influenced over the centuries by Mongolian, Chinese, Persian and Greek cultures and then, through the enormous Ottoman empire and its trade routes, many more, including Moroccan and French.

But I'll give it a go...

Sultan of vegetables

Copy (1) of Smzelispazaraubergines0001.JPGIf there is one vegetable that symbolises the Turkish kitchen it has to be the shiny, purple aubergine (patlıcan).  It may not be native to Anatolia or the wider Mediterranean (it was native to India and probably reached what is now Turkey in the Middle Ages ), but it certainly suits the climate well and has become the representative, ‘traditional’ vegetable of the whole region.  We had aubergine prepared for us in numerous delicious ways.  These were some of our favourites:

Aubergine cooked with olive oil

The aubergine (patlıcan) must be the Turks’ favourite vegetable.  It is prepared 100 different ways and features in appetizers, mains and even desserts.  The zeytinyağlı method of cooking is common in western Turkey, along the Aegean coast where olive oil is plentiful.  

Copy (1) of Smzelispazaraubergines0001.JPGPatlıcan zeytinyağlı could be served as an appetizer, lunch dish or accompaniment to meat.  In Turkey it would be a meze, with which you would drink rakı turned cloudy with water.  The recipe comes from the wonderful Zeliha Irez, who runs a superb guesthouse in the hills east of Istanbul.


With its taught, glossy skin and regal, deep purple colour, this is surely one of the most beautiful vegetables around.  (Although, to be pedantic, it's a fruit, which puts it in competition with figs...)

It is a member of the Nightshade family, as in Deadly, along with potatoes tomatoes, peppers, chillies and tobacco.  It is the only major vegetable in the Nightshade family to come from the Old World.  (The tomato was slow to catch on in Europe when it was introduced from South America due to its resemblance to Deadly Nightshade.)

Roasted aubergine soup with garlic cream

You guys voted it into third place, but it had a few particularly passionate supporters, so this week I'm sending you the aubergine soup.  It's one I learnt at school and then played with at home. .It's great for a cold autumn night.  Don't omit the garlic cream - it's essential.  Roasting the bulb first makes the garlic flavour sweet and smooth.

The aubergine is simply a marvellous vegetable.  Do send me your own aubergine recipe favourite if you have one.

aubergine soup.jpg


Culinary Anthropologist