Caponata is a traditional aubergine dish from Sicily. It is a delicious blend of aubergines, tomatoes, olives, sugar and vinegar, giving it a sweet and sour twist, and there are endless versions. Jews lived in Sicily in large numbers until the Inquisition in 1492. When they left they brought their cooking traditions and ingredients, introducing this delicious dish, to the central and northern regions of Italy. The original recipe is made with deep fried aubergines. However, here I propose a lighter version with shallow fried aubergines. The Caponata is good eaten hot, warm or cold. It is a great side dish with meat, chicken or fish; a tasty antipasto on its own or atop a bruschetta.
Preparation time: 45 minutes. Serves 6-8 as a side dish
● 2-3 aubergines
● 400g plum tomatoes
● 1 carrot, finely chopped
● 1 onion, finely chopped
● 1 celery stick, finely chopped
● 5-6 leaves of fresh basil
● 50g pitted green olives
● 50g pitted black olives
● 50g capers
● 1 tbsp sugar
● 1 tbsp vinegar
● Approx 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
● Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
● Wash the aubergines, cut the ends off and dice into 2cm cubes.
● Warm up 50 ml of olive oil in a shallow saucepan or frying pan.
● Once the oil is hot, add the onion, carrot and celery.
● Add a few tablespoons of water to help soften all the ingredients, and once the water has evaporated, leave to turn golden.
● Add the plum tomatoes (broken into pieces) together with the olives, capers, sugar, vinegar, black pepper and a little salt.
● Stir and leave to cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
● In the meantime, heat up the remaining 50 ml of olive oil in a separate large non-stick frying pan. Once the oil is hot add the aubergines, salt and pepper and stir well.
● Cover and leave to cook, stirring occasionally, on medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the aubergines soften.
● Tip: You will notice that the aubergines absorb the oil very quickly. Do not worry, there is no need to add still more oil. Once cooked, the aubergines will release the oil which they had previously absorbed.
● Once the aubergines have softened and are cooked, remove the lid, turn the flame up and leave them to turn golden brown for a few minutes.
● Once they are golden, remove them from the pan and add them to the other pan with the thick tomato sauce.
● Leave to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes and finally add the basil and serve.