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Divide approx. 30g of the cooked noodles to each chicken soup portion just before serving

Maltese Caponata (Kapunata) is a cooked vegetable dish mainly using eggplants, capsicums & zucchini. The vegetables are flavoured with plenty of sweet and sour ingredients that give the dish a nice balance and pop.

This version of Caponata is slightly different to the Italian Caponata, where across the water from Malta, the Sicilians have the same local ingredients, but simplify the assortment of vegetables to a minimum, using mainly eggplant.

My trip to Malta

I was recently lucky to visit Malta for seven days, filled with plenty of sunshine, friendly people, beautiful views and my favourite, fresh local cuisine!

For such a small country, I was impressed with the amount of gluten-free food available at supermarkets and restaurants. On top of that, there were many naturally gluten-free foods to choose from, including this incredibly delicious Maltese Caponata, served from breakfast to dinner either as a cold or warm dish.

Ways to serve Caponata:

The Maltese love to eat Caponata with their Maltese bread (ħobż biż-żejt) either as a dip or in a sandwich. Caponata is a travel-friendly salad that is refreshing on a hot day, which makes it ideal to take to a picnic or a BBQ.

Caponata is often served as a cold or warm side dish to accompany fresh fish, seafood and meat.

This salad, eaten cold or warm, is a super-vegetarian or vegan choice, enhanced with chickpeas or white beans for added protein.

My favourite way to enjoy Caponata is on top of toasted crostini bread. Once the bread is toasted or grilled, spread some sheep, goat or regular cream cheese and top it with plenty of Caponata.

Head to my Crostini recipe for more toppings and how to prepare the bread.

Tips to make Caponata:

Prepared vegetables for the caponata

Before you get started, it’s a good idea to prep all the vegetables and other ingredients ahead of time.

The rest of the ingredients needed for the caponata

This includes salting the chopped eggplant and leaving it to rest for 30 minutes to release and drain the bitter juices from the eggplant.

Adding salt to the eggplant to release the bitter juices

While the eggplants are resting, prepare to blanch the tomatoes to remove their skins and cut them into small pieces.

If you like some texture in your vegetables, simmer the mixture as indicated in the recipe for 15 minutes only. If you prefer them more broken down, extend the cooking time by another 10 to 15 minutes until it has reached your desired texture.

The completed caponata

Once the Caponata is cooked, make sure to cover the pan off the heat to cool down completely. This step is important to allow the caponata to absorb the sauce & develop more flavour while cooling down.

Maltese Caponata (Kapunata)

by Sandra, Fun Without Gluten
Maltese Caponata (Kapunata) is a cooked vegetable dish mainly using eggplants, capsicums & zucchini, flavoured with plenty of sweet and sour ingredients that include green olives, capers, tomatoes, garlic, sultanas and red onions. Parsley, mint and basil are sprinkled over the Caponata for added freshness and flavour.
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Appetizer, dinner, Lunch, Picnic, Side Dish
Cuisine Maltese
Servings 6 servings

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 1 large eggplant/aubergine, weighing 500g approx.
  • 1 tsp salt, for drawing out the bitter juice from the eggplant
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • tsp dried oregano
  • 1 red onion, chopped finely
  • 1 celery, ends removed, chopped finely
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 yellow or orange capsicum/bell pepper, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 red capsicum/bell pepper, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small courgette/zucchini chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tbsp whole capers, removed from brine
  • 1 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 3 plum or Roma tomatoes, blanched, deseeded & chopped finely (See steps below for blanching tomatoes)
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar, white sugar or runny honey
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 tbsp sultanas (optional)
  • 8 large green olives, pitted and sliced in quarters
  • 3 heaped tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped coarsely
  • 2 heaped tbsp fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • 1 heaped tbsp fresh mint leaves, shredded
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

Instructions
 

Preparing the eggplant:

  • Remove the stalk end and cut the eggplant into 1 cm cubes, leaving the skin on.
  • Place the cubed eggplant into a sieve over a medium bowl and sprinkle the salt over, leaving them to rest for 30 mins to extract the bitter juice.
    Adding salt to the eggplant to release the bitter juices
  • Using a paper towel, pat dry and wipe off as much salt from the eggplant cubes. Any salt residue will flavour the eggplant during cooking.

Blanching & preparing tomatoes:

  • Fill 2/3 of a medium saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil.
  • Lightly score a cross at the stalk end of each tomato.
    Scoring the tomatoes in order to blanch them
  • Add the tomatoes to the water and simmer for 2 to 3 mins or until the skin starts to buckle and slightly pull away from the tomatoes.
    Simmering the tomatoes for 2 minutes in order to blanch them
  • Prepare a bowl of iced cold water and transfer the tomatoes using a slotted spoon to the cold-water bath. This step halts the tomatoes from cooking further and helps the skin fall off easily.
  • Remove the tomatoes from the water and transfer to a chopping board. Peel the skin off the tomatoes.
    Removing the tomato skins
  • Slice the tomatoes into wedges and remove the core and pulp, keeping only the outer flesh.
  • Chop finely with a sharp knife and scoop up the flesh and juice into a bowl ready to add to the caponata.
    Chopped blanched tomatoes ready to be added to the caponata

Cooking the Caponata:

  • In a large frying pan, heat half of the olive oil. Add the eggplant and dried oregano to the pan and fry evenly over high heat for 5 mins, stirring often.
  • Once the eggplant starts to look slightly charred, add the onion, celery, garlic, peppers and zucchini to cook for a further 5 mins. Add an extra tbsp of olive oil if needed. Eggplant tends to soak up the oil quickly.
    Frying the eggplant in a hot pan
  • Turn down the heat to medium-low and add the capers and balsamic or red wine vinegar. Once the vinegar has evaporated, add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar or honey, sultanas and green olives.
    Adding the capers and balsamic vinegar
  • Cover & simmer for 15 mins or until the eggplant feels tender. Avoid over-cooking at this step as the caponata tastes better if there is still some bite in the eggplant rather than as a mushy texture.
    Cooking the caponata for 15 minutes

Finishing & Serving Caponata:

  • Sprinkle the fresh parsley, mint & basil and season with salt and pepper, tasting and re-seasoning if necessary.
    The completed caponata
  • Cover and set aside to cool down. This step is important to allow the caponata to absorb the sauce & develop more flavour while cooling down.
  • Once completely cool, chill until serving time. Serve as a cold antipasto dish, a bread topping or as a warm vegetable side dish.

Notes

  • Keeps for 4-5 days
  • Suitable to freeze. Taste and season accordingly once defrosted.
Keyword caponata, gluten-free appetiser, gluten-free vegetable dish, kapunata
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