Monday, 25 August 2014

Caponata for Montalbano

"The moment he opened the refrigerator, he saw it.
 Caponata! Fragrant, colourful, abundant, it filled an entire soup dish, enough for at least four people. It had been months since Adelina, his housekeeper, last made it for him. The bread, in its plastic bag, was fresh, bought this morning. The notes of the triumphal march of Aida came spontaneously, naturally, to his lips. Humming, he opened the French windows after turning the light one the veranda. Yes, it was a cool night, but still warm enough to eat outside. He set the little table, brought the dish, the wine, and the bread outside, and sat down" (Excursion to Tindari, Andrea Camilleri)

Adelina's caponata appears quite frequently in Inspector Montalbano mysteries. This traditional southern Italian dish is often served as an appetizer or a side dish. You can eat it hot, you can eat it cold, it keeps well for a few days in the fridge. In Excursion to Tindary Montalbano takes a big dish of caponata out on the veranda to eat as his main course, with good bread and wine. According to a short description of the recipe in the endnotes of the book, anchovies are one of the ingredients of caponata. It is possible, that Adelina indeed adds anchovies to her caponata, but most of the recipes for this zesty colourful dish that I came across in my cook books and online, do not list this ingredient.

This is a screen shot from The scent of the night, but that's the right veranda


olive oil 8tbsp+
3 aubergines (800g)
1tsp dried oregano
2 medium red onions (200g)
2 cloves of garlic
2 stalks of celery (150g)
5 tomatoes
1 heaped tbsp capers (in salt, rinsed)
2tbsp white wine vinegar
2tbsp tomato paste
a handful of sultanas or golden raisins
a handful of green olives
a handful of pine nuts (you can use flaked almonds instead for a budget version)
sea salt, pepper
fresh parsley

For this dish you will need medium sized aubergines, which are firm and don't have too many seeds. Cube the aubergines (don't remove the skin). For this amount of aubergines, I used two frying pans, you can use one, but fry the cubes in two batches. Stir continuously, while cooking the cubed aubergines in the olive oil. Season with dried oregano. Aubergines soak the oil like tissue paper. If you don't want to use as much oil, you might roast the aubergine cubes instead. Cook both batches for about 7 minutes, until golden brown on all sides, but not entirely cooked yet. Put both batches into one pan, and set it aside. Fry finely chopped onions, garlic and celery in the 2nd pan for about 7-10 minutes, until translucent. Add to the aubergines. Chop tomatoes, and add to the pan. Mix all the ingredients well. Cook for about 15 minutes, with the white wine vinegar, tomato paste, golden raisins and green olives, stirring regularly. Rinse the salted capers before adding to the pan. Add the pine nuts at the last five minutes of cooking. Season well with sea salt and pepper. Add some fresh chopped parsley before serving.

Meet the veggies

I prefer to use the salted capers rather than those preserved in vinegar.

Caponata is a lovely snack, served on the multi-seeded toasted bread or a good chunk of ciabatta.

You can also use it as a sauce for pasta, just stir a few heaped tablespoons in your bowl of spaghetti, though this is not an authentic Italian way of eating it. Montalbano would probably shake his head in exasperation at my suggestion.
Well, for him I would also set the table with a big bowl of caponata, chunky bread and a bottle of wine.

I'm adding my recipe to In My Veg Box - Aubergines linky created by Nayna from Citrus Spice and hosted by Full Scoops
this month.


  1. This looks so delicious and yum! And I'm happy to have come across your delightful blog! Thanks for linking to the event!

    1. Thank you! I love aubergines, such a versatile vegetable. Glad you have chosen it as a theme for a culinary challenge