Saturday, March 17, 2007


A friend gave me these home-grown and salted capers, so I just had to make caponata! Besides, a commenter has asked for the recipe. And a third reason for making it is that there is something unmistakeably Mediterranean about the perfume that results from having a dish made with aubergines and peppers bubbling away on the hob.
In Sicilian Food, Mary Taylor Simeti tells us that the dish was probably seagoing food because the vinegar in it means that it keeps well. In the recipe she gives, she includes some chopped, toasted almonds and the optional addition of some cocoa powder. I add neither of these, but almonds do marry well with peppers, so you may like to try it. Some recipes say use tomato sauce [which is what I do - I make my own using Keith Floyd's recipe in Floyd on Italy] whilst others tell you to sieve a can of tomatoes. I should think you could get away with using passata, but I would then thicken it with some tomato paste and maybe use the almonds. [I add a bit of 'strattu anyway, though it's not an authentic ingredient for this dish.] I do stone the olives [and you can use green ones instead of black or a mixture if you prefer] but as the elongated peppers available here don't have much membrane, I don't bother cutting it out. Here is the recipe:,
1 aubergine
c. 5 fl. oz olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 stick celery, sliced
2 red peppers, sliced [or 1 red and 1 orange pepper]
c. 1 pint good tomato sauce
goodly dollop of tomato paste
2 tblsp red wine vinegar
1 tblsp brown sugar
handful stoned black olives
c. 1 tblsp salted capers, rinsed and drained
Halve the aubergine, score the flesh and sprinkle with coarse seasalt. Put in a colander, jam a plate on top and leave for c. 30 mins. Rinse well and dry with kitchen paper. Cube the aubergine.
Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the onion, garlic, peppers and celery. Cook, stirring, for c. 5 minutes, then add the aubergine cubes.
Add the tomato sauce and paste, vinegar and sugar and cook for a few more minutes.
Add the capers and olives. Season.
Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes or until it is all squashy and looks and smells Mediterranean!
This dish is most often served here as an antipasto and in summer it is served chilled. You can serve it hot if you want to, but I prefer to serve it at room temperature. The dish freezes well and will serve 4 generously. In my opinion it needs no acompaniment other than some good, Sicilian pane arabo.
I had read about but never seen the rounder, paler type of aubergine in the last picture until I came to Sicily. Simeti tells us that this is the "Tunisian" variety but they are charmingly sold as violette here.
Still on a vegetable theme, today I found celeriac on sale for the first time since I've been in Sicily. I have missed céleri rémoulade and shall now be making up for it!


Anonymous said...

I have just made some homemade vegetable soup which was scrummy and ate it in front of my coal fire - it's chilly again here Welshcakes, now it's time to toast those crumpets .

Anonymous said...

Italy has the best food. I'm sure someone in France would disagree, but I like Italian.

Lee said...

I adore Italian food...and love Caponata and all that kind of great food!

Well, Steve, it was actually the Romans who introduce the art of good food to the French, not that they will ever admit to it! ;)

Sally said...

Thank you SO much dear Welshcakes for the caponata - just what I wanted. It''ll be interesting to see the difference making it now, with the dreaded glasshouse grown peppers and aubergines, and in the summer when I can use them from the garden. I have excellent capers from Pantelleria to add the authentic je ne sais quoi. I think it's the celery that makes the difference and will probably add the almonds - I'll let you know how it turns out.

Anonymous said...

Welshcakes, do the Italian men cook? My husband offered to cook lunch today for Mothering Sunday and he picked up a selection of microwave dishes from Tesco, he's never cooked anything from scratch. Never mind, it still gives me a break, so I can't complain.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Ellee. Have you had any snow? Oh! - soup and crumpets by the fire! Italians don't know how to do "cosy". I agree, Steve and Lee is right. It was the Roman legions on the march who started adding spices to food to preserve it and later the French refined it all. Sally, my pleasure. Pantelleria capers are the best. I'll be interested to know how it turns out and how you find it with the almonds. interesting question, Ellee. The ones I know don't though I have a feeling that they can. One friend's husband does help around the house and they laugh because I call him "signor New Man" and I think the men are incredibly discerning food shoppers!

jmb said...

Looks good, WCLC, although I like peperonata even better.

My Italian son-in-law does all the cooking in their house. My daughter says she is the sous chef, although she does all the baking. I think he is more fussy about food than she is.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jmb. I like peperonata too! Nice to hear that your son-in-law cooks.


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