The Med on a plate

by grainnep

Vegetable Stew
I nearly missed the first episode of Sicily Unpacked on BBC2 but just turned on as they visited the food market of Palermo. Seeing the fresh produce and all the beautiful colours of the fruits and vegetables made me nostalgic for my time in Italy and I just had to recreate the dish they prepared just to feel a bit closer to that wonderful country. Then the olive oil scandal hit the press here and I wasn’t even sure if the olive oil I had dressed it with was actually Italian…. Rather than worry about it, the oil I used tasted really good, said it was extra virgin and from Italy so until I hear otherwise I will trust that the product I bought is in fact what is says on the tin.

This dish is the Mediterranean on a plate, is full of lovely flavours and is delicious with a piece of grilled fish or chicken. It can also be served cold and is lovely with some rocket or flat leaf parsley stirred through it also. While classic recipes don’t always have peppers in this, I had some so included them in the recipe as they seem to go very well with the other ingredients. Use good olive oil to dress this at the end but you can use ordinary for the cooking process. Cook this on a medium rather than hot heat and this delicious stew should be ready in about 20 minutes from the last chop.

Sicilian Caponata

Serves 4-6
1 large onion, finely sliced
4 celery stalks washed and sliced
1 red and yellow pepper deseeded and cut into 1” pieces
2 lbs aubergines, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 tbsp salted capers, soaked in water and drained
5 tablespoons green olives, stoned ( I did not have them at the time so left out)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 oz tomato passata or puree
5 tbsp olive oil
2 oz pine nuts toasted
Salt and pepper

Blanche the onion and celery in lightly salted water for about 3 minutes, then drain.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the aubergine chunks and gently fry until brown and tender. If your pan is small you may have to cook them in batches. Add the pepers, onion, celery and all the remaining ingredients except for the pine nuts. Season, Stir well, then cover and cook for about 15 minutes on a medium heat. Check from time to time and add water if it appears to dry out and moderate the heat a little. Remove the lid for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
A final season to taste with salt and pepper and just before serving stir in the toasted pine nuts and drizzle over some more lovely extra virgin olive oil. I love the flavous of this hot or cold – Enjoy and let me know what you think…..