We *suppose* we ought to open with, ‘Well, hey there! Welcome to the Little Lata Blog. It’s nice to have you.’ We hope to provide you with a little inspiration, a bit of light-hearted (often irritatingly vague…) instruction, or, if nothing else, a pleasant respite from the bleaker corners of the internet as 2020 continues to go tits up.
Before we turn to the main purpose for today’s post (aubergines, FYI), we thought we would mention three things that might cheer up the end of the week:
- David Attenborough has joined Instagram, and already made it the best place on the Internet.
- A dog was rescued from a 30-foot hole in North Carolina using beef jerky to lure it to safety, which is the kind of light relief we all need to hear about at the minute.
- Apparently it is now autumn. This means multiple things- the return of the Knitwear & Pumpkin Spice Latte Selfie across all forms of social media; something of a Groundhog Day with every polite exchange you might have between now and Hallowe’en (‘I don’t know where the year’s gone!’/’I can’t believe it’s bloody October!…’ ad infinitum), and… we launch our new autumn menu!
As such, we thought we would treat you to a recipe. We have just about enough business savvy to not kick off with something we’re going to try and sell you over the next three months, but instead are going to let you into the carefully guarded secrets of a Lata favourite; the caponata.
The late summer heat left us with a glorious glut of aubergines that you can still get your hands on, and the recipe itself is a beautifully reliable stalwart of Sicillian cooking. Like most Italian recipes, it’s seasonal, fiercely contested (every Sicillian will tell you THEIR caponata is the *only* way to cook caponata) and starts with a relatively frugal collection of ingredients made to sing with love, and the quality that comes from being at their best. It also epitomises what we at Lata love best about southern Italian cooking- contrast, unabashed discord between the sweet and sour elements, and zero attempt at subtlety.
Our recipe has been tweaked endlessly by me over the years, but I’m pretty happy with this version. The chocolate adds richness, which is balanced out by the acidity of the wine, vinegar and capers. The tip is to use everything in season, and for goodness sake- salt, drain, and brown off your veg properly! There is little sadder than a pale, flobbery caponata soaked with oil. Whack on some good music, pour yourself a glass of Primitivo, and take your time. We’re in Sicily now- there’s no rush.
The dish can be served warm or cold, and will keep for a week nicely- if it lasts that long 😉
3 large aubergines, diced to roughly 2.5cm
3 large courgettes, ditto
Table salt, a good handful
A few sprigs of thyme
Extra virgin olive oil
3 large red onions, sliced
450g ripe plum tomatoes, diced roughly (into 8ths, approximately)
120g cappucine capers, drained
120g pitted kalamata olives
2 tbsp brown sugar
200ml red wine (nothing you wouldn’t still drink- that Primitivo would do nicely)
100ml red wine vinegar
3 tbsp grated dark chocolate- as good a quality as you can get hold of. We use callebaut.
Toasted almond flakes to garnish
Flat leaf parsley, to garnish
Mint leaves, to garnish
Salt the diced aubergine & courgette liberally, tossing well to coat. Leave this to drain in a colander over the sink for a minimum of 30 minutes.. Pat dry with a jay cloth (or decent kitchen roll).
Heat 1cm of veg oil in the largest pan you have until it passes the breadcrumb test (bread will sizzle and turn golden upon being dropped in), and batch-fry the aubergines and courgette with the leaves from the thyme sprigs until golden. Don’t overcrowd the pan, and allow oil to come up to temperature in between. Drain the batches on kitchen paper and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan on a medium to low heat. Fry the red onion with a pinch of sea salt until it softens a little, and begins to take on colour.
Add your diced tomatoes in for five minutes or so, stirring gently.
Add in your drained capers, pitted olives, sultanas, sugar, vinegar & grated chocolate. Bring to an enthusiastic simmer, before adding the aubergine & courgette back in. Lower to a more relaxed bubbling for an hour.
Serve at room temperature for the truly authentic experience, with toasted flaked almonds, torn mint, parsley and an extra glug of decent extra virgin olive oil. Warm foccacia and the rest of that Primitivo will help things along just beautifully.
That’s all for this week- keep an eye on our Instagram where we’ll no doubt be bombarding you with content about all the lovely new menu dishes. Until then keep being nice to each other, and try to remember that a good plate of food with people you love is enough to fix most things.