“This traditional Sicilian caponata recipe is absolutely gorgeous as a warm side or cold antipasto ”
2 large aubergines , cut into large chunks
1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion , peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic , peeled and finely sliced
1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley , leaves picked and stalks finely chopped
2 tablespoons salted capers , rinsed, soaked and drained
1 handful green olives , stones removed
2-3 tablespoons best-quality herb vinegar
5 large ripe tomatoes , roughly chopped
2 tablespoons slivered almonds , lightly toasted, optional
This is a fantastic dish from southern Italy that’s eaten as a warm vegetable side dish or a cold antipasto. Sicilians are proud that it’s made with produce from their island. All the different methods of making it are more or less the same – the things that make it stand out and be special are the quality of the aubergines, tomatoes and vinegar. Always try to get hold of nice firm aubergines with very few seeds – have a look down in your local market to see if you can find different colours. You could even ask your veg boy to cut one open so you can check it out. Don’t be tempted to cut the aubergine chunks too small or they will take on so much oil that they will become heavy. If this happens you don’t get to admire the lovely creamy flavour and texture. I’ve eaten caponata that’s been swimming in olive oil, but I much prefer mine to be less oily.
Get yourself a large pan, pour in a couple of lugs of olive oil, and place on the heat. Add your aubergine chunks and oregano, season with a little salt and toss around so the aubergine is evenly coated by the oil. Cook on a high heat for around 4 or 5 minutes, giving the pan a shake every now and then. (Depending on the size of your pan you may need to cook the aubergine in batches.)
When the aubergines are nice and golden on each side, add the onion, garlic and parsley stalks and continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Feel free to add a little more oil to the pan if you feel it’s getting too dry.
Throw in the drained capers and the olives and drizzle over the herb vinegar. When all the vinegar has evaporated, add the tomatoes and simmer for around 15 minutes or until tender.
Taste before serving and season if you need to with salt, pepper and a little more vinegar. Drizzle with some good olive oil and serve sprinkled with the chopped parsley leaves and the almonds if you like.
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