Sicilian caponata

Sicilian caponata

Margaret Fulton Favourites
Tanya Zouev and Armelle Habib

When I worked as a writer for Woman’s Day, I was invited to many countries eager to show me their culinary customs. Italy was one of my favourite destinations, and the Italian practice of using only the freshest vegetables was something that I was keen to write about. Even as a child I had been taught the importance of choosing the best. If I brought home a squashy tomato, my mother would tell me, ‘Go back, Margaret, and learn to watch what you’re doing.’

This zesty Italian dish of sweet and sour vegetables is great for picking up jaded appetites, particularly in summer. It can include sultanas, which add an extra sweetness, and can easily be doubled. You can skip peeling the tomatoes if you don’t mind coming across a bit of skin. For a first course, serve at room temperature with crusty bread. For a lunch or light meal, serve with hard-boiled eggs, fried fish or grilled chicken.


Quantity Ingredient
1 medium eggplant
1/3 cup olive oil
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon drained capers
1 tablespoon pine nuts
a handful black or green olives
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper


  1. Cut the eggplant into small cubes, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for 30 minutes. Heat half the oil in a deep frying pan and fry the cubes a few at a time until browned and soft, adding a little more oil as necessary.
  2. Return all eggplant to the pan with the celery, onion and tomatoes. Simmer for 15–20 minutes and then add the capers, pine nuts (if using) and olives. Stir the sugar into the vinegar until dissolved and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and simmer very gently for a further 15 minutes. Taste and add a little more vinegar if necessary. Store covered in the refrigerator and serve with crusty bread.


  • The flavour of the caponata improves greatly if made a day or two ahead. It can be served warm or at room temperature, and on its own or with plenty of crusty bread. Caponata can be eaten as an hors d’oeuvre, as you would a dip, or in larger servings as a light meal. I love it with a piece of grilled fish, a lamb cutlet or a hard-boiled egg.
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