Caponata – Italian sweet and sour eggplant

My very first real job was in a small student town in the North Island of New Zealand (NZ) called Palmerston North. The reason it is called Palmerston North is because there is a town called “Palmerston” in the South Island of New Zealand. Full marks for imagination I suppose.

If one wasn’t a student or had a partner/family/pet in this little town, it could get terribly boring. Given I was flush with cash for the first time in my life (not really, but it felt like it), I signed up to as many activities as I could after my work day. Running, swimming, salsa, ceramic painting and so on. Just so happened, 2 other friends of mine, finding themselves in a similar situation as I did, signed up to an “Italian cooking class”. I took cooking classes to be a slight on my ability as a self-made home chef so I shunned them. I could follow recipes well enough on my own!

As fate would have it, one of the two friends couldn’t take the small town politics any more and went back to BIG Auckland (population 1.5 million, largest town in NZ). One of her leaving gifts to me was her place in the cooking class. I smiled and accepted gracefully as that’s all I could do. I went to the first one with great apprehension but to my surprise, I loved it. Our cooking teacher would give us a list of ingredients for the following class. We bought them and then got given recipes for a 3-course meal. We had two hours to cook this 3-course meal and then we’d sit together and have dinner with the teacher. One of the evenings, we even had an olive-oil tasting session. After attending this class, my image of cooking classes changed completely. I’m going to a wine-tasting class soon and will report back.

The friend who remained in Palmerston North was from Germany and was on an exchange programme.  So before she went back, she scanned all the recipes from the class and mailed it to not just herself but to me too! I have the entire collection and I printed some of my favourites for my cooking album. The tiramisu recipe earlier on this blog is one of hers. This Caponata recipe is another.

Our teacher told us that Caponata is originally a Sicilian recipe but had spread throughout Italy taking many forms. While it is usually served as a “Contorno” or vegetable side dish, I have always eaten it as a main. It goes with pasta, with pita bread and more recently as I discovered, as a pizza topping.

Hope you try it and like it!

Caponata, ready to eat…

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