Recipe by Rachel Zammit Cutajar
Photo by Rachel Zammit Cutajar
Through the summer months there are few local vegetables available locally and even when you do get your hands on them they wilt pretty fast. Cooking local tomatoes and aubergines in this sweet and sour Sicilian sauce preserves them as this will last up to a week in the fridge. To make this completely vegan, substitute the honey with agave syrup.
- 8 large plum tomatoes (zenguli)
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- Fresh basil leaves
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt and pepper
- 2 aubergines
- 300ml flavourless oil (I used sunflower)
- 3 celery sticks, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 1 onion, diced
- 20 black olives, pitted
- 2 tbsp capers
- 100g roasted almonds
- 100g raisins
- 2 tbsp honey (or agave syrup if you want the vegan version)
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Cut the aubergines into large slices and salt them on the top and bottom, laying them on a baking tray in a single layer.
- Leave them for a least 30 mins so that some of the water is extracted. (This will give you delightfully crispy fried aubergines).
- In the meantime make the tomato sauce.
- Start by peeling the tomatoes. Put them in a large bowl and fill with boiling water.
- After around 30 seconds the skin should start to split. Remove from the water, peel and chop in half. The skin should come away from the flesh easily at this stage.
- In a large pan, fry the garlic in some olive oil until fragrant.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and allow to break down.
- Add the sugar, salt and pepper and a couple of fresh basil leaves.
- Allow to simmer for approx. 20 mins until the tomatoes are completely broken down and the sauce starts to turn a deeper red.
- Pat the aubergines dry with kitchen roll and chop into large cubes.
- In a separate pan, heat some of the oil (it should be approx. 1 cm deep) until an aubergine dropped into the pan sizzles.
- Add the aubergines in a single layer, adding oil when the pan becomes dry. You’ll have to do it in batches but it’s worth the trouble.
- Remove from the aubergines from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with kitchen roll to absorb some of the excess oil.
- Continue this process until all the aubergines have been fried.
- Wipe the pan clean and add a little olive oil.
- Fry the onion, carrot and celery for a few mins until soft.
- Add the tomato sauce and some more basil leaves and simmer for approx. 10 mins.
- Add the fried aubergines, olives, capers, almonds, raisins, honey (or agave syrup for the vegan version) and vinegar.
- Season with salt and pepper and allow to simmer for a further 10 mins.
- Allow to cool and serve topped with fresh basil leaves and crusty Maltese bread.
This will keep in the fridge for up to a week and is best to eat at least a day after cooking when the flavours have been allowed to develop.