Maltese Caponata, Kapunata, is a simple and flavourful salty, sweet and sour salad. Made from a mix of fresh summer vegetables that can be served warm or cold.
What is caponata?
Most probably you’ve already heard about Sicilian caponata, as it is the most popular version of this dish around the world. Sicilian caponata is made of fresh summer vegetables such as aubergines, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olives, capers, pine nuts. Sometimes you can also find it with raisins.
However, Maltese Kapunata is like the underdog. It might not be as popular, and gets confused a lot with her Sicilian sister, but it is unique and flavourful, ready to make your meals tastier. To us Maltese, it makes our summers much more special. Nothing beats a day by the beach with a good piece of ħobż biż-żejt (Maltese Bread) and some kapunata. Or a bbq with some kapunata ready to be enjoyed before the bbq even starts or as a side with the main food. It’s so special, that you’ll be lucky if your grandmother passes on her secret recipe to you!
The main difference between the two caponatas, is that the Maltese version has bell peppers and sometimes even courgettes (another staple in the Maltese cuisine), seasoned with mint . It also doesn’t contain pine nuts or raisins. Although, at the end of the day, the beauty of the kapunata is that you can put and mix any vegetables you like.
The traditional way of cooking kapunata is by frying all the vegetables separately, so that you get an even cooking. However, you can also bake the vegetables prior to mixing them all together. The latter uses less oil and can speed up the process.
As kapunata is a sweet and sour salad, the recipe calls for vinegar (sour) and some sugar for an added sweetness. Instead of using a teaspoon of white sugar, a good technique that I like to use is to peel and chop up half an apple and let it cook until it dissolves in the sauce. Another great substitute is adding apple sauce with no added sugars.
I like my kapunata to have a certain bite, so my recipe here is to achieve that texture. However, if you like your kapunata more soft you have to cook the vegetables for longer. The same thing goes for the size of the vegetables, you can either keep them chunkier or even chop them more finely. All these little tweaks will vary in how your kapunata will look at the end.
How to serve it
Kapunata can be served hot or cold. Ideally enjoyed with some crusty fresh bread as an appetiser or as a main dish. It can also be served as a side with fish or meat, as an easy pasta sauce, as a pizza topping or even as a version of shakshuka! The options are endless, as caponata is an extremely versatile dish.
Storing or Preserving the Kapunata
You can easily batch cook kapunata in the Summer months when all these vegetables are in season, and preserve in bottles for the colder winter months. Kapunata can be easily stored in the fridge for about 5-7 days or else you can simply freeze it.
1 aubergine about 300g
2 small bell peppers (yellow/green) about 300g
4 tbsp olive oil 60 ml
1 white onion
2 large garlic cloves
3 tbsp tomato paste 70g
2 tbsp red wine vinegar 30ml
1/2 apple or 2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp capers 20g
1/3 cup olives (a mix of green & black) 60g
1 tbsp fresh mint
1 tbsp fresh basil
salt & pepper
Start by prepping and chopping up all the ingredients. Prior to start cooking, I recommend to season the chopped aubergine with salt and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Remove the excess water and salt with a paper towel.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in pan on medium heat. Add the chopped aubergines and let cook for about 7 minutes until golden brown.
Once cooked, clean the frying pan, add two tablespoons of olive oil and add the diced white onion. Cook on medium heat. As soon as the onion gets translucent, add the garlic and let cook for 2 minutes.
Add the diced green and yellow bell peppers to the onion and garlic and let cook for a couple of minutes until they start to soften.
Add the tomato paste, the apple and the tomatoes. Mix well and let cook for about 10 minutes.
Once most of the tomatoes have cooked down, add the cooked aubergines, the red wine vinegar, the olives and the capers. Mix well together and let cook for some more minutes.
Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Finally, top the kapunata with some mint and basil. You can either serve immediately as a hot dish, or else let it cool down and refrigerate for later use.
Spottted in apronandwhisk.com
If you’ve never tried it please make sure to ask for it when you travel to Malta
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