50g sultanas, 50g olives, 1 aubergine, 10-15 cherry tomatoes, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp muscovado sugar, 1 onion or 1 stick celery, olive oil, 1 piece dark chocolate.
Caponata is a hot Sicilian aubergine salad, one of those marvellous Italian dishes which is equally lovely alone as antipasti or tossed with rice or pasta to make a meal. I particularly like this with butter beans to form a sort of stew. This combination of sultanas, olives and balsamic vinegar is the perfect balance of sweet and savoury flavours, soaked up beautifully by the melt-in-the-mouth perfection of aubergine. The leftovers are marvellous spread onto bread for lunch the next day.
1) Slice the aubergine into cubes, toss with a tsp of salt and add to a colander to rest for at least half an hour to allow the bitter juices to drain away. I like to set the colander on top of a bowl so that I can check the progress - from one aubergine you will get at least 50ml of liquid!
2) Peel and finely slice the onions, or finely dice the celery and add to a pan with a glug of olive oil. Sizzle for at least 10 minutes to allow them to soften completely, then add the brown sugar, sultanas and balsamic vinegar. Turn off the heat and leave to rest so that the sultanas soak up the wonderful flavours and become plump and juicy.
3) In a separate pan, Fry off the aubergines in a little oil until they are completely soft and the skin has turned a dark and vibrant purple. Transfer to the pan of onions/celery and sultanas and turn on the heat.
4) Pit the olives and blitz in a blender (or if you can't get hold of good olives - for goodness sake don't bother buying unpitted ones, they're like hunks of rubber! - a good olive tapenade will suffice), quarter the tomatoes then add both to the pan. Stir gently so as not to break the tomatoes down too much, just bring everything together.
5) Whether serving hot, or cold, grate a little good quality dark chocolate to season (I used 85% here but if your tastes are not quite so pure, 70% will be bitter enough).