The classic Sicilian aubergine and pepper stew – with a neat, oven-based twist
With a new baby to look after, my husband Hugh and I have delegated the cooking of dinner to the oven. It makes for a more harmonious family life, because we have more hands free to look after the children, while delicious smells slowly fill the house and we wait in anticipation for dinner. Hugh’s caponata, a sweet-sour hodgepodge of sweet peppers, aubergines and onions in vinegar and olive oil, is one of our favourite things to eat with some dips, salad and bread alongside. There’s a catch to cooking this way – more washing-up – but we have delegated that, too: to the dishwasher.
Hugh’s oven-baked caponata
Caponata really benefits from a good rest to allow the flavours to mingle: even 15 minutes will do the trick.
Prep 20 min
Cook 55 min
Serves 2, or 4 as part of a larger meal
2 aubergines, cut into 3cm x 3cm chunks (500g net weight)
5 peppers (2 red, 2 green, 1 yellow), stalk, pith and seeds discarded, flesh cut into 2cm-long slices (750g net weight)
1 red onion, peeled and cut into 5mm slices
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
100ml olive oil, plus more to drizzle, if you like
1½ tsp fine sea salt
3 tbsp capers, drained
1 tsp sugar
6½ tbsp (25g) chopped parsley
1½ tbsp red-wine vinegar, plus a little more to taste
Ciabatta, to serve
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7 and lay out three large nonstick oven trays.
Take your biggest bowl and throw in the aubergines, peppers, onion, garlic, 100ml of the olive oil and a teaspoon and a half of salt. Mix really well with your hands, making sure everything is coated in oil, then distribute evenly across the trays (keeping the bowl to one side), so the vegetables lie in a single layer. Bake for 40-45 minutes, turning and tossing once halfway.
While the veg are roasting, put the capers, sugar, parsley and vinegar into the now empty veg bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar.
When the roast vegetables are soft and starting to caramelise, take the trays out of the oven and tip the contents straight into the bowl with the caper and vinegar mixture. Stir gently (take care not to break up the veg) to mix everything together, adding another tablespoon or two of oil, if you think it needs it. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you see fit: it should be well seasoned, subtly sweet and sour. Leave to rest before you eat with ciabatta to scoop up the caponata and mop up the juices.