The joys of cooking with aubergines

The title of June Marinos’s new cookery book «Aubergines, 122 Recipes from Around the World, From Ancient Times to Today» says it all. Not only is there a wide variety of recipes from China and the Middle East to France and the USA to meet the needs of the most discerning palates, but Marinos traces the history of this vegetable from antiquity in a most readable way. Recipes range from Aubergine «Bread» (from Mauritius), Sultan’s Delight from Turkey, Baked Aubergine and Spinach (from Syria) to Spanish Stuffed Aubergines. There is the familiar Imam Baildi from Turkey and Zakynthos Grilled Aubergine from Greece, one of many from the author’s husband’s birthplace. In an extensive introduction, Marinos, who has lived in many countries including Ethiopia, Iran and Thailand, tells how she first came to be interested in this most versatile of vegetables. «Someone at a party said that there were hundreds of recipes containing aubergine and that the Arabs boasted a thousand different dishes,» she writes. A friend, the well-known cookery book writer Elisabeth Ortiz, encouraged her efforts and helped with recipes, and also wrote a preface to the book. Marinos goes into some detail about the history of the plant and provides interesting botanical notes. An ancient plant, the aubergine (Solanum melongena) is from the same family as the potato tomato, red pepper and deadly nightshade (belladonna) and probably came from India, Burma or Indonesia. The auberbine is depicted on some ancient mosaics in the courtyard of the ruins of St Dimitrios, the oldest Christian church in Greece dating from AD 500 in Nikopolis, near Preveza, northwestern Greece. Each recipe is attractively illustrated with a color photograph and the clear layout is kitchen-friendly. An ideal New Year gift to all of us looking for fresh ways to serve up a familiar food.