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#ThatTranslatorCanCook week 11: Zâalouk (Moroccan Aubergine Salad)

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

This recipe is from a small cookbook my brother bought back from a holiday in Morocco some time ago.

It’s a pretty simple aubergine and tomato dish with garlic, cumin, paprika, parsley and coriander. It seems it’s often eaten at room temperature as a salad, and some liken it to ratatouille with a Moroccan twist. I served mine with quinoa for an extra protein hit, but couscous would also go well.


Salt and pepper – imperatives or nouns?

My recipe includes the standalone instruction ‘Saler et poivrer’ – that is, ‘salt and pepper’. Here, these two French verbs appear in the infinitive, a common way of giving instructions like this.*

In English, both ‘salt’ and ‘pepper’ can be used as verbs, as in ‘salt the chips’ or ‘the article was peppered with puns.’ But to me, simply saying ‘salt and pepper’ on its own as an instruction doesn’t work. The two verbs could be confused with nouns since they are written identically. If we add a direct object to the sentence, indicating what is being salted and peppered, as in ‘Salt and pepper the [dish]’ this would help to clarify. However, in recipes, it’s much more common to see ‘season the [dish] with salt and pepper’ or even just ‘season the [dish/ingredient].

Interestingly, I also believe that ‘pepper’ as a verb is used more often in a figurative sense, rather than a literal one.

*In French, when giving instructions, you can use either the imperative or the infinitive mode. The infinitive is seen to be more neutral and distant, while the imperative is directed towards an individual. The former is more often used in recipes. (See more at Le Figaro - in French)/

Bear’s garlic?

Ever heard of ‘bear’s garlic’? I certainly hadn’t. But this plant, native to Britain, is known by this moniker in both English and French (or rather, ‘Ail des ours’). Apparently, it is known by this name as bears gorge on it in spring, when they awake from hibernation, and when it’s at its best.

Personally, I just knew it as wild garlic, but apparently it has several common names, in English: Bear leek, Bear’s garlic, Broad-leaved garlic, Buckrams, Ramsons, and Wood garlic, and in French: Ail des ours, Ail des bois, Ail sauvage. Just like bulb garlic, it has a number of health benefits: it is blood purifying, it lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.

NB: wild garlic wasn’t used in my recipe, I just came across it as I was researching something related.


While everything went smoothly and it tasted delicious, making this in summer when tomatoes and aubergines were at their peak would have been preferable. This would have lent the dish a greater depth of flavour.

Picture of Zaalouk served up

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