This sweet and sour dish of Sicilian origin is a terrific amalgamation of in-season vegetables – it may not be much to look at in the pan, but just wait until you try it. As the caponata cooks and each
ingredient is added you can feel and smell the dish building until at the end there is a dish of complex layers which is fabulously moorish.
Served warm or at room temperature with crusty bread, crostini or sourdough and a salad it is a meal in its self, served alongside other vegetable dishes it is a wonderful addition to a vegetarian buffet or as part of antipasto platter it is an interesting inclusion.
For meat eaters it goes particularly well with grilled lamb chops or steaks and leftovers are delicious as part of a sandwich filling. For a sandwich filling, try roasted slices of kumara, roasted red pepper and lettuce leaves with caponata on wholegrain bread.
There are as many variations of this classic dish as there are Sicilian cooks – this is my version.
The eggplant should be cut into fairly large chunks otherwise it absorbs too much oil and the finished dish is too oily and heavy. In the best
caponata the eggplant has a silky texture which has absorbed the
flavours of all other ingredients and the finished dish is a harmonious mass of seasonal vegetables.
½ cup olive oil
1 large or 2 medium eggplant, skinned and cut into large chunks
1 tsp dried oregano
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
¼ cup chopped parsley, plus extra for serving
1 cup pitted green olives, sliced lengthwise in half
2 tbsp drained capers
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp white sugar
500g tomatoes, roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Heat oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add
eggplant, partially cover and cook, stirring frequently for 15-20 minutes or until eggplant browns and is very tender.
2 Add oregano, onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes longer or until onion is tender and translucent. Add celery and parsley and cook for 5 minutes longer.
3 Add olives and capers and mix well to combine. Sprinkle over vinegar and stir in sugar and simmer for 4-5 minutes or until vinegar is absorbed.
4 Stir in tomatoes, bring to simmering, cover and simmer
15-20 minutes or until tomatoes are tender and have become part of the vegetable mixture – the exact cooking time will depend on the ripeness of the tomatoes, the riper the tomatoes the quicker the cooking time. If at the end of the cooking time there seems to be a lot of excess liquid in the dish, remove lid and simmer for 5 minutes longer or until liquid is evaporated. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature scattered with parsley.
Happy cooking and eating.
Recipe by Rachel Blackmore
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