There are countless versions of this Sicilian dish and the ingredients can be tweaked depending on what you have available, but the end result should always have a wonderful sweet and sour tang which improves as the flavours combine and mellow together, becoming even better a day or even two days after preparation. It will keep (covered) happily in the fridge for up to five days but it is not great for freezing as the texture softens becoming watery.
The aubergines we buy in the UK do not require salting, hurrah! I prefer to coat them fairly generously in olive oil and then, rather than frying, cook them in the oven because of the vast quantities of oil aubergines thirstily absorb if fried. When chopping the vegetables, try where possible to keep the sizes approximately the same.
Caponata is good served warm, at room temperature or cold.
2 medium to large aubergines, cut into 1cm cubes
5 tbsps. olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 onions, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic
Generous 500g tomatoes (not tinned), chopped
Generous handful green olives, chopped
Generous handful raisins
2 large tbsps. capers
2 tbsps. red or white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
Pinch of chilli flakes
3 fresh bay leaves
Fresh basil to stir in when serving
Put the cubed aubergine into a bowl and drizzle over 3 tbsps. of the olive oil . Stir around so that all the aubergine is coated in the oil
Line a baking tray with baking parchment and tip in the aubergine cube, spread it out so that it's in a single layer, season generously with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until soft
Warm the remaining 2 tbsps. olive oil in a saute pan - or I use a non-stick wok - and add the chopped onion, red pepper, celery and a pinch of salt and soften gently, approximately 8-10 minutes.
Grate in the garlic and stir
Stir in the chopped tomato and keep on the heat for 3-5 minutes
Add the chopped green olives, raisins, capers, brown sugar, vinegar, chilli flakes and bay leaves. Bring up to a simmer, pop a lid on the pan and keep at a trembling simmer for 5 minutes
Add the aubergine, bring back to simmering and remove from the heat after a couple of minutes and allow to cool down considerably
Taste the caponata and adjust the flavour to your liking by adding perhaps more vinegar, sugar, chilli flakes or salt and pepper
To serve, stir in some fresh basil. You could also top with some toasted pine kernels or, more common in Sicily, toasted flaked almonds
Courgettes make a good addition, or add any leftover cold vegetables you might have in your fridge