I’m currently recovering from an enormous weekend spent alternatively eating, walking, shopping, eating and fan-girling over Adele with a few extra coffees and a break between tutorials. (You may already know this, thanks to my instagram story spam!). Mum and Dad visited from Auckland for a few days, and I got to play tourist for a change in a city I’ve grown accustomed to yet still need google-maps frequently, where I have lived for 3+ years but still don’t know like home. It’s funny how you get to see a place in a new light when you’re with people on holiday – you realise how much of the big city you take for granted.
It started with a 20 course (yes, 20 – they were small, okay!) dinner at Attica – it’s a reservation I’ve tried to get for the last few years only to be disappointed by the booking system, but it was worth the wait. Headed by New Zealand head chef Ben Shewry, it absolutely deserves that spot in the Top 50 Restaurants in the world – inspiring and innovative, and exactly not the type of food you’d make at home! We ate the best croissants in the world (according to the NYT, anyway) from Lune Croissanterie, enjoyed a flower-adorned breakfast at The Kettle Black, tried a bubble cup coffee and coffee-caviar topped french toast at specialty roaster Industry Beans, stuck with the long time favourite sticky pork, fried barramundi and green apple salad at Chin Chin, were wowed by the best creamed corn invented at Embla, and finished off with double scoops of salted coconut and mango gelato at Spring Street Grocer. I don’t think you could fit in much more – and if you’re into food, I couldn’t recommend Melbourne as a city to visit enough.
This eggplant caponata is a last ditch attempt to make use of the summer evenings and produce, and combines some of my favourite ingredients: eggplant (if you’re as into it as me, try this eggplant pasta puttanesca, eggplant shakshuka, and eggplant & mango soba noodles), sourdough bread (I just need to learn to make my own) and the concept of toast – isn’t everything better when sat on top of a warm, crusty piece of bread, itself slathered with melting butter, some form of cheese, or avocado? For me this basically applies to any leftovers ever. Plus a poached egg – lunch = sorted.
It is adapted from a Gjelina recipe – a restaurant we visited earlier this year after being recommended it by too many people to count. Their focus on small vegetable based sharing plates, wood-fired pizzas and the best ginger gelato on sticky date cake I could imagine prompted me to order their cookbook that same evening, and it’s a winner. This caponata has become a blend of the Middle East and more Italian flavours, nuanced and rich. Tangy pomegranate molasses, herbs and labneh are in the mix with salty anchovy, grilled capsicum and the brine of capers. A hint of sweetness comes from tiny currants with crunch from toasted pinenuts and those slabs of garlic toasted sourdough. I ended up baking the diced eggplant rather than frying it – much less oil, much less spatter, and the difference was barely noticeable. And it may look like a long list of ingredients, but you might find you already have most in your cupboard, and once your eggplant and capsicum are roasted, the rest comes together very quickly.
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 red capsicum
- olive oil for cooking
- 500g eggplant (1 large or 2 small)
- salt and pepper
- ½ red onion, diced
- 2 small (or 1 large) cloves garlic
- 2 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
- 1 heaped tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tbsp dried currants
- 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
- 2 anchovies, rinsed and chopped
- 2 tbsp capers
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tbsp each finely chopped parsley and mint
- labneh or burrata
- microgreens for decoration
- - sourdough to serve
- Toast the pinenuts in a dry pan until just beginning to brown, 3-5 minutes
- preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Place the whole capsicum on a tray and roast for 20-30 minutes, or until the skin is slightly charred and juice starts to leak out. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the skin and dice.
- Meanwhile, dice the eggplant into small cubes and spread on single layer on an oven tray. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to ensure the cubes are mostly coated, then season with salt and pepper Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake a further 5 minutes or until tender and golden . Set aside.
- In a large frying pan, heat a glug of olive oil. Sauté the diced red onion until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook gently for 15 minutes or until broken down and becoming saucy.
- Add the roasted capsicum. Add the toasted pinenuts and currants and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the pomegranate molasses.
- Add in the eggplant and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- Gently stir in the chopped anchovies, capers, red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, parsley, and mint. Taste to adjust seasoning.
- Grill or toast the bread.
- Place the toasted bread on a serving plate. Smear with labneh and top with caponata. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm.