Hailing from Sicily, there are as many recipes for caponata as there are Italian nonnas. Eggplant and other vegetables are slow-cooked in an agrodolce, or sweet and sour sauce. In this version, the sweetness comes from sugar, currants and the slowly stewed vegetables, while the acidity is lent by the tomato paste and vinegar. We’ve served the caponata with grilled lamb, but you can serve it with any other meat, poultry or fish, or simply eat it with crusty bread.
- 12 French-trimmed lamb cutlets
- olive oil, to brush
- chopped flat-leaf parsley and lemon wedges, to serve
- 100 ml olive oil
- 1 eggplant, cut into 1 cm cubes
- 2 carrots, cut into 1 cm cubes
- 1 red capsicum, cut into 1cm cubes
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 70 g (¼ cup) tomato paste
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) balsamic vinegar
- 3 tsp caster sugar
- 2 tbsp currants
- ½ cup pitted green olives, halved
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 2 minutes
Drink match 2012 Brash Higgins Nero d’Avola, McLaren Vale, SA ($42)
To make the caponata, heat 60 ml of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add eggplant and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes or until softened. Remove using a slotted spoon and set aside. Add another 2 tbsp of the oil, then add carrots, capsicum and celery. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in garlic and fennel seeds and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and eggplant and cook for 1 minute. Add balsamic vinegar, sugar, currants and olives, stir in 125 ml water, then cover and cook for 10 minutes or until mixture is thick and slightly reduced. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a chargrill pan or frying pan over medium-high heat. Brush lamb with oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes on each side for medium-rare, or until cooked to your liking. Remove from pan and place on a plate, loosely cover with foil and allow to rest for 2 minutes.
Spoon caponata into serving dishes and scatter with parsley. Divide cutlets among dishes. Serve with lemon wedges.
Photography Brett Stevens
As seen in Feast magazine, November 2013, Issue 26. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.