From Jamie’s Italy (Hyperion, 2006)
This is a fantastic dish from southern Italy that’s eaten as a warm vegetable side dish or a cold antipasto. Sicilians are really proud that it’s made with produce from their island. All the different methods of making it are more or less the same – the thing that makes it special, though, is the quality of the eggplants, tomatoes, and vinegar. Always try to get hold of nice firm eggplants with very few seeds – have a look down in your local market to see if you can find different colors. You could even ask your produce clerk to cut one open so you can check it out. Don’t be tempted to cut the eggplant chunks too small or they will take on so much oil that they will become heavy. If this happens you don’t get to admire the lovely creamy flavor and texture. I’ve eaten caponata that’s been swimming in olive oil, but I much prefer mine to be less oily.

Serves 4

olive oil
2 nice large purple eggplants, cut into large chunks
1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and stems finely chopped
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed, soaked,and drained
a handful of green olives, pits removed
2-3 tablespoons best-quality herb vinegar
5 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
optional: 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, lightly toasted

  1. Get yourself a large pan, pour in a couple of glugs of olive oil, and place on the heat. Add your eggplant chunks and oregano, season with a little salt, and toss around so the eggplant is evenly coated by the oil. Cook on a high heat for around 4 or 5 minutes, giving the pan a shake every now and then. (Depending on the size of your pan you may need to cook the eggplant in batches.)
  2. When the eggplants are nice and golden on each side, add the onion, garlic, and parsley stems and continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Feel free to add a little more oil to the pan if you feel it’s getting too dry.
  3. Throw in the drained capers and the olives and drizzle over the herb vinegar. When all the vinegar has evaporated, add the tomatoes and simmer for around 15 minutes or until tender.
  4. Taste before serving and season if you need to with salt, pepper, and a little more vinegar. Drizzle with some good olive oil and serve sprinkled with the chopped parsley leaves and the almonds if you like.