Sicilian Pepper and Aubergine Stew
This is great tasting Sicilian food. Rich and exotic, it’s flavors can be enhanced by storing overnight and anticipate it’s flavours to be better the next day. An outstanding vegetarian meal.
Caponata –Sicilian Pepper and Aubergine Stew
Caponata – Stufato di Pepe Siciliano e Melanzane
Adapted from recipes in these books: “Italian Kitchen – simple steps to great tasting Italian food” by Maxine Clark AND “Italian Kitchen” by Anna Del Conti
“This stalwart of the Sicilian menu when made well tastes like a rich and exotic ‘ratatouille’. It tastes better the next day …. but serve at room temperature.” Maxine Clark
“Caponata is one of the outstanding vegetarian dishes and appears in many different versions throughout the island of Sicily.” Anna Del Conti
Ingredients: Serves 4
2 medium aubergines, sliced and cut into bite-sized cubes
2 red bell peppers, seeds and white pith removed, sliced and cut into 2cm x 2cm pieces
Good olive oil for cooking
1 white onion finely chopped
2 celery sticks cut in half lengthways and sliced into small pieces
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
12 very ripe large tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and coarsely chopped, (preferred) or 2 x 400g tinned Italian plum chopped tomatoes
100ml Italian tomato passata
100g best green pitted olives rinsed, drained and chopped in half
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Mixed Italian herbs, oregano, flat leaf parsley, sage, finely chopped and mixed together
Toasted chopped almonds
Freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt the aubergines: Put the cubes into a colander in layers, sprinkling the layers with salt. Set aside over a bowl for 20 minutes, then rinse well, and pat dry with paper towels.
After salting, toss the aubergine cubes and the sweet red peppers into a roasting dish. Add some cooking olive oil, ground sea salt and pepper. Spread them out and mix thoroughly. Roast in an oven preheated to 200°C (180°C Fan) Gas mark 6 for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven. If there is too little oil in the pan add more. Don’t allow the aubergine to become dry. Stir the mixture and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until well browned, but not burned, and fork tender.
Put the sultanas into a bowl and cover them with hot water. Leave to plump up for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and add the onion, celery and carrot. Cook for 10 minutes on a medium heat until softened, but not browned and stir frequently. Add the tomatoes, stir and then cook for 10 minutes on a low heat until pulpy, stirring often. If the mix becomes too dry add the passata.
Add the olives, vinegar, sultanas, sugar and herb mix to the sauce, stir and cook for a further 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Stir the aubergines and sweet peppers into the tomato sauce until they are thoroughly mixed and warmed throughout. Taste and adjust the seasoning (this means adding more sugar or vinegar to taste to balance the flavours).
Turn off the heat and transfer the mix into a lidded casserole dish while everything is still warm, cover with the lid and leave at room temperature for at least 2 hours so the flavours can steam and mingle and develop while the vegetables cool slowly. It tastes better the next day and even better the day after that. Keep it in the fridge but pull it out a good hour before you intend to eat it as the cold dulls the flavours.
Serving Tip: Serve warm or at room temperature in shallow bowls and, if you prefer, top with the almonds, parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Serving option: To make Caponata into a perfect nutritionally balanced vegetarian meal garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs. This version also had a topping of crunchy homemade fried garlic flavoured wholemeal breadcrumbs.