I read this lefty trendy a la mode British newspaper, where they give advice on organic vegetarian cooking and ethnic ethical fashion, and where the articles are FREE! -unlike most mainstream Canadian newspapers!- and I came across a recipe for aubergine croquettes, by the food columnist who is also the chef of a fancy London vegetarian restaurant. Interested in all things aubergine and eggplants, I looked up the recipe, and I made the startling discovery: the humble kuku, mainstay working-class food in Iran and piffed upon for not containing enough meat, humble companion of the mighty kebabs and khoreshes in Persian cuisine, is in fact nothing less than fancy-nancy French croquettes. If I had re-named all the thousands of kukus I have fried in my kitchen “croquettes“, and sold them in a fancy London restaurant instead of watching them grow stale in my fridge, well, imagine where I would have been.
The basic premise of kukus is simple: cook, mash and mix anything you have with an egg, spice it up a bit, and fry it in batches until nicely brown. Or as in the case of herb kuku (kuku sabzi), nicely black. So you can have potato kuku, lentil kuku, mince-meat and bolied potatoes kuku, aubergine kuku, runner-bean kuku… I think you get the idea. They can be found in most Iranian picnic baskets and school sandwiches. Housewives pride themselves on making each kuku look exactly like the other, while slummy mummies such as myself make interesting and strange creative shapes every single time. At one point, I can remember my dad going kuku-crazy, and buying pastry molds shaped like heart and flowers to make kukus shaped like hearts and flowers for his undeserving offspring.
However, I must admit that the fancy-pancy French aubergine croquette differed in one (important) respect from our humble aubergine kuku: we slice and fry the aubergines and then mash them up with eggs and flour or mashed potato before frying them, whereas the important London chef said we should roast the aubergines in the oven, and then mash them up etc etc.
So, in the hope of having my own column in the Guardian and my own restaurant in London one day, and cutting down on evil fat, I followed his advice: I cut a huge eggplant sideways in two and bunged it in the oven. Much, much simpler than frying it in slices.
Then, I mashed up the aubergine flesh with a grated boiled potato, one egg, an assortment of spices and a couple of grated garlics, and fried the mixture, spoonful by spoonful.
Not child food, exactly. But quite popular with the adults, although there still are five or six leftover, sitting quietly in my fridge…