Sicilian Vegetable Stew
This is a typical Sicilian dish based on vegetables, above all on aubergines. The vegetables are fried and then simmered in a sweet-and-sour sauce. The origins of the word caponata are unclear, although some say it is Catalan. It could derive from the Latin caupona, meaning osteria (bar), where you would always find a caponata ready to eat. Whatever its origin, this dish, served cold as an antipasto, is now popular all over Italy. It can be eaten warm as an accompaniment to meat and poultry or used as a pasta sauce.
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3-4 celery stalks, including leaves, chopped
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 1kg (2 1/4 lb) aubergines, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks
- 1 tbsp salted capers, soaked in water for 10 minutes, then drained
- 20 green olives, stoned
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 55g (1 3/4 oz) concentrated tomato paste
- Salt and pepper
- Blanche the onion and celery in lightly salted water for a few minutes, then drain.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the aubergine chunks and fry until brown and tender (don’t over crowd the pan; you will probably have to cook them in batches). Add the onion, celery and all the remaining ingredients. Stir well, then cover and cook for about 15 minutes, removing the lid of the pan towards the end of cooking. Should the sauce require extra moisture, add a tablespoon or two of water during cooking. Season to taste with salt and pepper.