Persian-Style Smoked Aubergine, Chicken and Barberry Frittata (kookoo)

I’m back with a recipe for kookoo bademjan (aubergine/eggplant kookoo), that is, a Persian dish I find easiest to call a frittata to give my readers an idea of what the dish is all about. Like a frittata, a kookoo is an egg-based dish.

I love aubergine but smoked aubergine is a whole different story for me. It goes into quite a few of my favourite dishes including this easy frittata, omelette or to be more precise, kookoo (or kuku) as it is called in Persian. The smokiness of the aubergine, the sharp burst of tangy barberries, and subtle spicing make this dish simply divine. Chicken adds to the flavour but vegetarians can easily omit it.

Tangy barberries add colour and a lot of flavour to many dishes.
Tangy barberries add colour and a lot of flavour to many dishes. You can find them in most Middle Eastern or Persian groceries.

Smoking aubergines on the BBQ is not hard at all but if you can’t smoke them go for grilling in the oven, hot as hell oven (220C), like I did with the ones in the picture below when it was too chilly outside. If you are barbecuing meat or chicken just throw your aubergines on the fire after everything else is done and ready, shut the lid and leave them there for an hour or so. Do check every twenty minutes so they don’t turn into a carbon pile by accident.

I always make a lengthways cut on the skin of the aubergines to make it easier to open them up later and to make sure they don’t explode while baking. You can keep the prepared aubergines in the fridge to make your frittata the next day or even two or three days later.

Grilled aubergines and garlic. The flesh of the aubergines will be so soft you can scoop it out with a spoon.
Grilled aubergines and garlic. The flesh of the aubergines will be so soft you can scoop it out with a spoon.

The day I baked this kookoo the house filled with a smell hard to describe. I served it with my Persianised Japanese cucumber salad (sunomono). I learned how to make sunomono from my Japanese friends Tomoko and Miho years ago. Sometimes I give their recipe a little twist by changing the ingredients. The method is the same but the flavour is Persian, i.e, sour! The salad can be made a couple of hours earlier to make last minute rush unnecessary.

Aubergine kūkū just out of the oven
Aubergine kookoo just out of the oven
Persianised Japanese cucumber salad (sunomono).
Persianised Japanese cucumber salad (sunomono).

You will need the following ingredients for the frittata to feed four to six people as a starter or four as a light meal:

  • 3 large whole aubergines, smoked on the BBQ or oven-grilled
  • 150g cooked chicken (leftover roast or rotisserie), shredded
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder or 2 mashed cloves of baked garlic
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 5 tbsp barberries, picked over, rinsed and dried on kitchen paper
  • 2 tbsp oil (extra virgin rapeseed or grape seed)

To garnish and serve

  • 1 tbsp barberries, picked over, rinsed and dried on kitchen paper
  • knob of butter
  • 1 British cucumber or five Persian/Lebanese/Turkish cucumbers
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 10 mint leaves, thinly shredded


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).
  2. Scoop up the aubergine flesh with a spoon. Use a potato masher (or a big spoon) to mash the pulp (it’s ok if it is stringy). Put in a bowl with all the other ingredients except oil and 1 tablespoon of the barberries and beat with a wooden spoon until well mixed.
  3. Put 1 1/2 tablespoon oil in a 25cmx25cm non-stick coated cake tin. Oil the sides of the tin and place in the oven to heat for three minutes or until the oil is very hot.
  4. Pour the batter in the oil. Shake the tin and put in the centre of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes or until the top is set. Brush with the rest of the oil (1/2 tablespoon) and bake for 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  5. Let cool in the tin for five minutes and invert on a board like a cake. Cut into squares with a sharp knife.
  6. Cook the remaining barberries in a little butter until shiny and a little puffed up. Use to garnish the kookoo.
  7. While the kookoo is baking slice the cucumbers very thinly with a sharp knife or mandolin slicer. Put in a sieve, sprinkle with all the salt and massage. Let the salty juices drain over a bowl for fifteen minutes. Squeeze out as much juice from the cucumbers as you can, then put in a tea towel and gently wring out to extract more moisture. This will “wilt” the cucumbers but will give them a lovely texture. Mix with lemon juice and shredded mint.
  8. 8. Serve warm or cold. Bon appétit!

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