Caponata is an Italian, slow-cooked aubergine stew; here I’ve added puy lentils for a little autumnal oomph, perfect for darker, chilly evenings. Its texture is comforting and nourishing, and the flavour is deep, slightly sweet and tangy… It’s a genuine one-pot wonder, saving on time and washing up; the trickiest bit is remembering to soak the lentils the night before or morning of! Don’t skip the pine nut gremolata which add garlic pungency, fresh zesty notes from the lemon and a lovely nibbed texture.
This recipe serves 4; it freezes perfectly too.
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
2 brown onions
2 stalks celery
16 stalks fresh thyme / 2 teaspoons dried thyme
16 stalks fresh oregano / 2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 large aubergine
4 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon flakey sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
200g soaked puy lentils
2 tins organic chopped tomatoes
600ml veg stock
Large handful fresh parsley
4 teaspoons baby capers
Soak the lentils in cold water overnight.
Slice the onion into half moons, finely chop the celery, and crush the garlic. Prep the herbs if using fresh.
Gently heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or casserole dish, and sauté the onions, celery, herbs and garlic for 12 mins until soft and translucent.
Dice the aubergine into approx. 2cm cubes.
Add the aubergine, and an extra drizzle of oil if needs be.
Sauté for 8 mins until the aubergine starts to soften; a little catching or colouring here is a good thing, don’t be afraid to keep the heat medium/high.
Add the tomato puree, sea salt, balsamic vinegar, and a teaspoon of sugar.
Drain the lentils and rinse very well under running water. Add to the saucepan.
Add veg stock, and chopped tomatoes and stir well.
Have the lid ‘half on half off’, and simmer gently for 45-60 mins until the lentils are cooked though. Gentle cooking will ensure the lentils cook through evenly, without over cooking on the exterior and remaining too al dente in the middle.
Stir from time to time to make sure the lentils don’t catch.
Taste the seasoning - puy lentils often needs more salt than you expect!
Serve with pine nut gremolata, a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a hunk of fresh sourdough.
This lentil stew will last in a tupperware in the fridge for 5 days (reheat thoroughly) and will happily freeze for 4 months.
For a non-vegan option, include 2 anchovies when you add the aubergines for a little umami depth; alternatively, some diced pancetta works very well if added with the onions.