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Recipe: Sicilian Paleo Caponata

caponataThe aubergine, majestic in its dark purple robe, glistens invitingly, beckoning innocent shoppers to buy with promises of rich meaty textures, vibrant colour and general all round deliciousness……

Well to be honest previous experience of this vegetable has not been promising…at all.  Bland, pulpy and flaccid with a taste about as interesting as candle wax, my previous aubergine experiments have been studiously ignored by all three children and even placed out on the lawn for the birds by Mike where it remained for a period of three days till the rains came and took it away.

But then I took to the books and observed two new principles: First aubergines love oil!  Second aubergines hate water, tomato juice, wine and any other liquid ingredient unless they have first soaked up enough oil to fire up the QE2.  Failure to observe these two principles results in a tough slightly bitter tight skinned piece of rubbery ness.  Get it right, though and aubergines are really quite special!  And they are a really good economical way to bulk up any family dish.

Try them cooked in coconut oil with tomatoes and garlic, leave to stew for a couple of hours, add cinnamon, salt, pepper and sprinkle with parsley and salty white cheese before you serve.  This is a great accompaniment to meat dishes and gives them that sort of “middle eastern” flavour. Yum.

For a lighter different type of meatball you could use half and half cooked chopped seasoned aubergine and minced lamb or add cooked aubergine to a hot fragrant coconut broth laced with subtle thai spices.

 In a Scilian caponata, aubergines provide a great base for a “sweet” and sour partnership which is traditionally made with celery, tomatoes, capers and vinegar.

 This paleo caponata is delicious served with a thick layer of goat’s cheese ( if you don’t do dairy on your paleo journey don’t add this in )

Ingredients

 1/2 cup virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped 

3 tablespoons pine nuts 

1 tablespoon hot chili flakes

2 medium aubergines, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves 

1 jar of tomato sauce (no added sugar) 

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar 

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

1.  Fry the onions and pine nuts in the olive oil for about 5 minutes or until soft.  (Traditionalists will add a handful of currants at this point but this dish work well without the additional sweetness).

2.  Add the chopped-up aubergine, chili flakes, cinnamon,  thyme and balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.  

3.  When everything is soft , add the tomato sauce.  

4.  Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and simmer.  

5.  Serve piping hot.

6. Enjoy!

Notes on aubergines:

Aubergines are a great source of B vitamins which aid brain and nervous system function and folate which helps prevent birth defects.  They are rich in useful minerals: potassium, manganese, copper and magnesium and they provide lots of soluble fibre which helps to slow down the rate at which sugar is released into the blood stream – useful if you are susceptible to dips in mood due to low blood sugar although you will find eating a paleo diet will even this out for you.

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