Maybe itʼs my Italian heritage coming out, but I think there is no other dish so perfect for warm autumn days, and none so wonderful a celebration of autumnʼs bright vegetables than the humble caponata! Our version of caponata isnʼt just about eggplant like most are. Here, the fruity, sweet red capsicum and super ripe and jammy tomatoes demand equal attention. And so they should. Combined, the trio is more magical than any one of them on their own. Add to that last seasonʼs preserved olives and you have a dish that will hopefully become as much a staple in your home as it has in ours. – Matt
Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main
Time: 45 minutes
DF, GF, Vegan
1 onion, diced
1 dried chilli, torn into pieces
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large red capsicum, roughly chopped
1 large eggplant, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon unreﬁned sugar (e.g. rapadura)
½ teaspoon unreﬁned salt
350 g very ripe cooking tomatoes (see ﬁeld notes), roughly chopped
100 g black olives (see page 210), pitted
5 parsley sprigs, stalks and all, ﬁnely chopped
5 Greek oregano sprigs, leaves picked and ﬁnely chopped
½ cup well-packed basil leaves, torn
Place a large, shallow frying pan over a medium–high heat. Sauté the onion, chilli and pepper in a generous splash of oil until the onion has softened but not yet started to brown. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the garlic begins to brown.
Add the capsicum, eggplant, balsamic, sugar and salt and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally – add a little water to the pan if it starts to stick. Add the tomatoes, olives, parsley and oregano, stir well and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant has completely broken down (about 15–20 minutes).
Remove from the heat, stir through the basil, squeeze over the lemon and drizzle with a generous splash of oil. Serve hot or cold with buttered sourdough and plenty of red wine!
On tomatoes. There are two types of tomatoes: salad and cooking. Salad tomatoes – or slicing tomatoes – are juicier and sweeter raw. Common varieties are cherry-type and beefsteak-type tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes – often called saucing, sauce, paste or bottling tomatoes – are much denser, and their sweetness really sings after cooking. Common types are Roma and Amish paste. In both cases, home-grown tomatoes, picked fully ripe straight off the vine, leave all other tomatoes for dead. If you can, plant yourself a tomato plant. If you can’t, steer clear of the supermarket and head to the farmers’ market, because if there’s one thing supermarkets do not do well, it’s tomatoes.
Recipe extracted from Grown & Gathered by Matt & Lentil Purbrick. Available now, Plum, RRP $45.