|Renato Guttuso's 'La Vucciria'|
|Caravaggio's 'The Taking of Christ'|
Further reading- The Leopard, Midnight in Sicily.
1.5kg Round purple Italian aubergine, 2cm cubes
600gm Celery, peeled and 2cm dice
500gm Red onions, peeled and 2 cm dice (peeled weight)
2 Minced garlic cloves
200gm Pomodoro sauce or passata
3.5tbsp Caster sugar
4tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
130gm Red wine vinegar
75gm Halved green olives
2tbsp Fine capers
2tbsp Reconstituted sultanas
3tbsp Toasted pine nuts
Small handful basil leaves
1) Lightly season the aubergine pieces with salt and fry in hot oil for 2-3 minutes or until soft. Drain well on kitchen paper.
2) Cook the celery, red onion and garlic in the olive oil in a covered pot for approx 30 minutes or until COMPLETELY soft.
3) Add the sugar and vinegar and cook for another 5-8 minutes or until the majority of the liquid has reduced and the mixture is just beginning to caramelize.
4) Combine the aubergine and celery/onion mixture in a tray. Add the capers, pine nuts and olives. Completely cool. Mix in the pomodoro sauce, torn basil leaves and celery leaf.
Fantastic and flexible, caponata will stand on its own as a starter or as a garnish for fish or lamb. Pair with a big Syrah or frizzante Lambrusco.
Caponata is a traditional Sicilian dish often referred to as an antipasto, salad or side dish. The primary flavours being aubergine and that agrodolce hit. Sweet and sour is not isolated to sticky day-glo Chinese takeaways. My version is a little more complex than the usual, adding bits of texture contrast and flavour spikes such as the pine nuts, capers and olives. The final flourish of celery leaf and basil add colour and depth.
La Bella Cucina