"Caponata is a Sicilian dish that celebrates the world of sweet and sour perfectly, using eggplant, celery and capsicum cooked separately and combined with vinegar, capers and honey to really wake up and bewitch the tastebuds. The joy of this recipe is that it works hot, cold or warm, is better the next day and sensational with crusty bread. Rosa Mitchell, one of Melbourne's treasured chefs, has been drawing on her Sicilian heritage for over two decades, weaving magnificent menus at her popular Rosa’s Canteen and caponata is often centre stage." Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Earth
Everyone has their own way of cooking this Sicilian favourite, and Rosa Mitchell cooks each vegetable separately as they all take different times, before mixing them together at the end.
- 3 eggplants, diced
- 5-6 celery stalks from the heart of the celery
- 6 long red capsicums or a mix of green and red
- 250 ml (1 cup) olive oil
- ½ large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 4 tbsp small salted capers, rinsed
- 1 tbsp honey
- 60 ml (¼ cup) red wine vinegar
- handful basil leaves
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.
Standing time: 1 hour
Place the eggplant in a colander over a bowl, lightly salt them and set aside for 1 hour for the salt to draw out the moisture and bitterness.
Cut the celery, including the leaves, into 1-2 cm pieces. Cut the capsicums in half lengthways and then slice widthways.
Tip the eggplant into a clean tea towel and pat dry. Heat 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender and golden (don’t overcrowd the pan -cook in batches if necessary). You may need to add a little extra oil as the eggplant can soak up a lot of it. Drain on paper towel.
Heat another 60 ml (¼ cup) oil in the pan. Add the celery and onion and cook over low-medium heat until the celery is tender. Drain on paper towel.
Add another 60 ml (¼ cup) oil to the pan. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute over medium heat until fragrant but not burnt. Add the capsicum, season with salt and cook until tender and slightly coloured but not too soft. Drain on paper towel.
Place all the vegetables in a bowl, add the capers and mix well.
Add the honey and vinegar to the warm pan and cook over medium heat for 30 seconds, then pour over the caponata. Tear in the basil leaves and mix.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Emma Warren. Creative concept by Belinda So.