Caponatina could be described as Sicily's national dish. There are many variations on this sweet and sour mixture of eggplant and other ingredients - capers, olives and celery, say - some with a heavier tomato-based sauce and others with orange juice, raisins or pine nuts. Along the coast, caponatina is often served as an accompaniment to grilled swordfish or tuna. But it's also popular served simply as part of an antipasti, as we've done here.
- 60 ml red wine vinegar (¼ cup)
- 50 gm sultanas
- 2 tbsp raw caster sugar
- 2 small eggplant (650gm), diced
- 140 ml olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 800 gm canned chopped tomatoes
- 10 large green olives, thinly sliced
- 4 celery stalks, diced
- 2 tbsp capers in salt, rinsed, drained
- To serve: thickly cut salami (optional) and Sicilian cheese, such as Piacentinu Ennese (see note) or Sicilian pecorino
- 1Soak vinegar, sultanas and sugar in a bowl until sultanas are plump (1 hour) and set aside.
- 2Combine eggplant and ½ tsp salt in a bowl and stand until bitter juices seep from eggplant (15-20 minutes). Drain and set aside.
- 3Heat half the oil in a large deep-sided frying pan, add onion, stir occasionally until starting to caramelise (15-20 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.
- 4Add half the eggplant to pan and stir occasionally until golden (5-10 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to bowl with onions. Repeat with remaining oil and eggplant. Return onion and reserved eggplant to pan with sultana mixture, tomato, olives and capers and stir occasionally over low heat until tender (45 minutes-1 hour).
- 5Meanwhile, blanch celery in boiling water until just tender (20-30 seconds), drain, refresh in iced water and drain again. Stir into caponatina and serve hot or cold as part of an antipasti with salami and cheese.
Piacentinu Ennese, a Sicilian cheese made from raw sheep's milk, saffron and black pepper, is available from Formaggi Ocello (see stockists p225) and other specialist cheese shops.
This recipe is from the April 2012 issue of