I’m a sucker for a bargain. The other day small fresh eggplants (aubergine) were on sale, and I had to buy as many as I could fit into a plastic bag, and then worry about what I was going to do with them later. I love the spontaneity of having not having a meal plan for the week and having to make dishes dependant on what is in season that week. My first thought was to make ratatouille, but I didn’t have zucchini (courgette) at home, but I remembered that there was an Italian dish called Caponata that was very similar, but used capers and olives instead, both of which I had in the store cupboard.
Caponata is a Sicilian dish made from eggplant, onions, tomatoes, capers, green olives and sweetened with vinegar, though there are versions that contain other ingredients such as carrots, potatoes, pine nuts, peppers or even raisins. It is typically served as a side dish, but sometimes as antipasti, for example as a crostini topping. Though Caponata is best known as a Sicilian dish, there are many similar dishes throughout the Mediterranean, and even in Italy there is a similar Neapolitan dish is called Cianfotta.
Caponata alla Siciliana
- 2 large (or about 10 small) eggplants, cut into chunks
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 5 large tomatoes, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp of capers, rinsed and dried
- a handful of green pitted olives
- 3 tbsp of white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp of dried oregano
- a handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large pan heat a large glug of olive oil. Add the eggplant, along with the oregano and some salt. Evenly coat the eggplant in the oil and gently fry for about 5 to 10 minutes until it has softened. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to fry the eggplant in batches.
- Add some more olive oil to the pan, and gently cook the onion, garlic and about half of the parsley until softened.
- Add the olives, capers, vinegar and cook until the vinegar has evaporated.
- If needed, add some more oil, then the tomatoes and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes until everything has become soft.
- Season to taste, decorate with the rest of the parsley, some more olive oil and then serve. However it will improve after a night in the refrigerator.