2 cloves of garlic
1 chilli (optional)
2 sticks of celery
3 small to medium carrots
3 courgettes (romaneschi)
1 red and 1 yellow pepper
150g of french beans
150g of corallo or runner beans
capers (left in water to soak)
dash of white wine vinegar
one of the following: basil, mint, thyme or oregano
I call this a caponata and it is - loosely. To keep it fresh I use as little oil as possible and there’s no deep fat frying. There is no aubergine in this version as I feel it makes the dish lose its crunch and sharpness. This dish appears in my cooking in many different forms. It’s very simple, but requires attention to detail. It’s absolutely delicious and what’s more it can be turned into a modern interpretation of one of my favourite all time salads, the Insalata Russa.
It takes time to prepare the vegetables in this way, but once made it keeps in the fridge as a salad for several days.
It should be served at room temperature or slightly warmed. It’s a recipe where you can make do with what you have already but this does not mean that the products should be inferior. You need to try to cut each vegetable into small neat dice of the same size so that they cook evenly.
Roast the peppers in the oven for thirty to forty minutes or until the skin is blistered. Once cooked place in a container, seal and leave to cool. This way the peppers steam in their own heat and are easier to peel.
Wash and tail the beans (leave the tops as they are the most tender part) and blanch them until they are al dente. Drain and shock in an ice bath.
Remove the stringy part which runs down both sides of the corallo bean. Cut the beans into thin slices on the diagonal and then blanch and shock these in iced water too.
As soon as they are cool, remove the beans from the water and drain, leaving them in a colander to drain off any excess water.
Peel the peppers, remove any seeds and lay them out flat on a chopping board. Slice them into thin strips, turn the strips and cut into small dice.
Peel and chop the onion into fine dice. Peel the rough strands from the outside of the celery and any tough skin on the inside and chop into a dice the same size as the onion. Peel and prepare the carrot in the same way. Wash and cut the courgettes and again cut to the same size.
Place peeled cloves of garlic into a large frying pan with the right amount of extra virgin olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil on a moderate setting until the garlic begins to fry. Add the onions, stir them in and season with a bit of salt. When the onions are translucent, after about five minutes, add the celery and a couple of minutes after that the carrots. Fry on a high heat without letting the vegetables brown. When the vegetables are cooked but still al dente remove the pan from the heat and scrape them out onto a perforated tray set over another tray to allow the oil to drain off.
Fish out the garlic and the chilli from the vegetable mixture and replace them back in the pan with some more oil. Warm it through then add the chopped courgettes and flash fry these in the same way as the other vegetables. Once cooked, place the courgettes with the other vegetables to drain.
Chop the french beans into small pieces then bring all the vegetables together in a large bowl and mix them to combine their flavours. Add the capers, your herb of choice and check the seasoning. Splash some white wine vinegar over and mix again before checking your seasoning for the last time.