Caponata (starring the aubergine)


Aubergines! These glossy summer beauties are a good source of fibre, vitamins B1 and B6, potassium, magnesium and manganese. This recipe for Caponata – essentially a sweet-sour-savoury salad or dip – hails from Sicily and shows the North African and Middle Eastern influences on the cuisine of that region. Be sure to use good quality red wine vinegar. Serve as part of mezze or on bruschetta.


  • Aubergines - 800g
  • Salt
  • Olive oil - 150ml
  • Onions - 2 medium, sliced
  • Celery - 2 medium stalks, chopped
  • Tomato paste/puree - 2.5 tbsp
  • Water - 100ml
  • Green olives - 8, pitted and chopped
  • Capers (drained and rinsed) - 1.5 tbsp
  • Sugar - 3tsp
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  • Red wine vinegar - 2-4 tbsp
  • Pine nuts - 3tbsp, toasted


  1. Cut unpeeled aubergine into 2 cm cubes. Layer in a colander, sprinkle with salt and let stand 30 mins. Dry well in a clean tea towel.
  2. In a frying pan, heat 2 tbsp oil at a time, cook aubergine cubes in batches until browned and cooked through (about 10 mins), tossing frequently. Remove to dish lined with paper towel.
  3. Heat remaining oil in frying pan. Add celery and cook quickly until lightly browned but still crisp. Remove to bowl with slotted spoon.
  4. Reduce heat, add onions and cook until soft (6-8 mins).
  5. Dissolve tomato paste in water and add to the pan of onions, along with the celery, olives, capers, sugar and pepper to taste. Bring to boil and simmer 10 mins.
  6. Add 2 tbsp vinegar and cook until fumes dissipate. Stir in aubergine and pine nuts. Add more vinegar to taste (it will depend on the vinegar).
  7. Transfer to bowl and let cool. Best served at room temperature.