Monday, 27 May 2013

Fig & Fennel Caponata

Caponata is one of those dishes which allows for imagination and creativity. Traditionally associated with Sicily and including some of the wonderful aubergines to be found on the island, caponata is essentially a melange of chopped vegetables (cut smaller than its cousin ratatouille) cooked slowly together with ingredients that bring out sweet and sour flavours. The addition of pine nuts brings crunch to the finished dish. I think it's best served at room temperature with toasted slices of bread to act as a scoop. I like to minimise the use of olive oil during the actual cooking so that I can stir in a couple of tablespoons once the cooking is complete, producing an unctuous finish to the dish.

I have 5 glorious lilac trees here at Old Hagbech and the scent is intoxicating

For this variation on the traditional caponata you will need;
1 large bulb of fennel
1 orange pepper
1 large onion
6 spring onions
2 sticks of celery
4 fat cloves of garlic
200g of cherry tomatoes
200g of soft dried figs
The juice and  zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of capers, chopped
1 tablespoon of basil leaves, Greek if possible
1 tablespoon of parsley
3 tablespoons of Olive oil
2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons of white wine
1 heaped teaspoon of bouillon powder or 1 flat teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

Chop all the vegetables and figs into medium sized dice, still recognisable but small enough so that a scoop of the finished caponata includes the whole mix of ingredients.
Begin by frying the fennel seeds gently in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the fennel, celery, onion, pepper, spring onions and garlic and sweat slowly over a gentle heat for 7 to 10 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, capers, the wine and the juice and zest of the lemon. Cook until all liquid has been cooked off, add the sherry vinegar along with 200ml of water and the seasoning. Cover with a lid and cook on the lowest possible heat for half an hour. Stir in the chopped basil and parsley and adjust the seasoning to suit. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and leave to cool. best served the day after making, when the ingredients will have had a chance to mellow. Serve on slices of bread toasted.

This caponata partners up really well with a big slab of creamy gorgonzola!

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