A Sicilian summer stew that makes the best of seasonal produce
Caponata is a Sicilian dish and it has a sweet and sour, or agrodolce flavour from a splash of vinegar
Caponata is traditionally made with vegetables that are in season
This week, I fully intended to make ratatouille, the French recipe that so many now associate with the animated movie of the same name. Ratatouille is seasonal cooking at its best as it makes use of the glut of tomatoes and courgettes that are usually harvested at this time of year.
But I always end up adding aubergines too, for a meaty, less watery version, which turns it into caponata. I always add courgettes too, making this a delicious hybrid. Caponata is a Sicilian dish and it has a sweet and sour, or agrodolce flavour from a splash of vinegar and the raisins that are often added.
The vinegar and capers add a distinctive piquancy to this dish. I often add a handful of olives or anchovies for a saltiness and another layer of flavour. Be careful seasoning with salt if you do make these additions.
I’ve suggested adding a pinch of sugar to taste here and that all depends on how sweet your tomatoes are. I do like it to have a rich sweetness, so often add about one teaspoon.
Although gorgeous on toast or crusty baguette, as I’ve served it here, this is also great when stirred through pasta or served as a side dish to barbecued lamb chops, or as part of a selection of antipasto. I often make big batches of this and freeze it for the winter months, preserving the best of summer produce. It keeps well in the fridge for a few days too.
Caponata is traditionally made with vegetables that are in season, so red peppers, fennel or even leeks can be added, as long as it still has the main components. Like many dishes, every household has its own version, its own recipe handed down through generations, so no two will taste exactly the same.
I always like to add some herbs as I’m cooking the dish then stir through a little more just before serving. It ensures the flavour of the herb is fresh and pungent, so always reserve a little. Stir through some baby spinach leaves for even more green goodness.
This is so quick and easy to make. I love spooning it over cod or salmon. It’s also great with roast chicken. This is best served at room temperature, or warm, but not hot. As with so many things, it often tastes better the next day after it has had some time for the flavours to mingle and settle. It is a gorgeous summer stew that uses the best of seasonal produce.
CAPONATA WITH AUBERGINE AND COURGETTE
2 aubergines, cut into chunks
1-2 courgettes, cut into chunks
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
30g flat leaf parsley (small bunch)
20g mint, finely chopped
20g marjoram or oregano leaves, finely chopped
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp capers
4 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Pinch of sugar, to taste
Extra herbs to serve
1 Pour about three tablespoons of olive oil into a heavy-based pan and add the aubergine. Season with salt and cook on a high heat, coating each piece in the oil.
2 Once the aubergine is golden, add the courgette, onion and garlic. Cook for a further few minutes and add a little more oil if necessary.
3 Pour over the vinegar and add the capers. Once the vinegar evaporates add the chopped fresh and tinned tomatoes, and the pinch of sugar. Add half the herbs and simmer for 10-15 minutes until slightly reduced.
4 Taste for seasoning and add the remaining herbs and a little black pepper. Serve with a green salad and toasted sourdough.