If you ever needed proof that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts then here it is. My fennel plant finally decided to grow bulbs after spending the past year just producing wispy little fluff that even a pubescent teenager would be embarrassed to sport on his cheeks. Fennel is one of those “love it or hate it” kind of vegetables due to its slight licorice flavour which leaves few people ambivalent about it. It is nice in salads and goes well with fish but I have been wanting to make caponata ever since I read a Giorgio Locatelli recipe that included fennel. I have included a few things from my fridge that Giorgio obviously forgot to include in his recipe, but I’m sure he will fix that when they do the next reprint.
The thing about caponata is that you have to let the flavours combine and mix together overnight. You also need to eat it at room temperature as the cold subdues the flavours (in fact cold seems to subdue most things). I’m not a fan of raisins so I left them out and if you want a bit of a salt kick add a few anchovies.
2 brinjals, chopped into cubes
1 onion, cut into cubes
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 bulb fennel chopped
20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4 artichoke hearts, cut into pieces
20 pitted olives
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
4 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon raisins
Fry the brinjal, onion, celery and fennel in batches in olive oil until slightly browned and they start to caramelise. When the last batch is half done add the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds and fry to release the nutty flavours. Place in a large dish and add the remaining ingredients. Add a drizzle of balsamic reduction and toss well. Leave overnight and serve at room temperature with toasted ciabatta.
Caponata goes really well as an accompaniment to fish and chicken or can just be eaten on its own as a snack.
Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life – Confucius