From River Cottage Veg Everyday! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

I guess I’m a bit addicted to caponata but back when I was eating wheat it was specifically the one at Carluccio’s, high-street Italian restaurant extraordinaire and friend to the gluten-free.  Choice people, their menu has CHOICE!  But not the caponata, apparently.  What the…..?  I have no idea why the caponata would contain gluten, unless they’re sloshing malt vinegar in there instead of wine or balsamic.  Even then malt vinegar is a contentious gluten-free point.  But anyway, it is excluded from the gluten-free menu.  Bah!!  I don’t need you Antonio Carluccio.  I shall just make my own.  This is directly from River Cottage Veg Everyday! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall because I implore you to buy it.  Even though there’s a big old section about ‘magic dough’ and, believe me, before I went gluten-free I made it, loved it, and it was magic.  The non-bread recipes though totally make this cook book worth it even if you are gluten-free.  See vegetables in a different light.  I may not be vegan, or even veggie, but I do firmly believe in the Michael Pollen quote, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.  I’d like to add my own addition.  “And some cake”.  He, he, he.  But back to the caponata, this sweet and sour aubergine stew with tomato, capers and olives is completely delicious.  I’m sure you’ve all realised how much I love the aubergine by now.  Use this stew hot as a side dish, a BBQ accompaniment, or as a dip with breadsticks or even (sacrilege) tortilla chips.  I’d like to draw a tenuous link between gluten-free tortilla chips being made from corn, and polenta being corn.  See, this is ALMOST a natural paring.  Am I right?!  Of course caponata is Sicilian and not Italian.  I’ll get my coat…


Prep time 15 minutes Cook time 30 minutes plus cooling Makes 6 adult servings

  • 2 medium aubergines, diced into ½” cubes
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp light soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp finely grated dark chocolate
  • 50g sultanas
  • 2 tbsp nonpareille capers, rinsed
  • 50g stoned green olives, sliced
  • salt and pepper

Put the aubergine cubes in a colander, sprinkle with a little salt and leave to drain for about half an hour before rinsing with cold water and patting dry with a clean tea towel.  In the meantime, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large pan and sweat the onion, celery and garlic over a low heat for around 10 minutes without colouring.  Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.  Then add the vinegar, sugar, chocolate, sultanas, capers and olives and simmer again for 10 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat and place to one side.  In a frying pan heat the other tablespoon of oil over a medium high heat and fry the aubergine cubes until golden.  Tip these into the tomato mixture and simmer this for a final 10 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat again, cover with a lid, and leave until completely cold.  Check the seasoning and either serve now or refrigerate for up to 2 days to allow the flavours to develop.  It is best served at room temperature.


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