This eggplant or aubergine caponata with halloumi and flatbread has got to be one of the tastiest vegetarian dishes to have up your sleeve. Buttery soft eggplant, tomatoes and garlic cook down to become a silky stew while the moreishness of salty halloumi and warm, toasted flatbread make this a complete dinner. And this is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!
I confess that I made a double batch of this because I love it so much. I put half of it in single portions in the freezer because I love something tasty after I've been travelling and sometimes all the effort I can make is to pull something out of the freezer.
The other half was destined for dinner with Nina and Garth. They're currently on a big saving spree as they're saving up for a house and at the moment they're really limiting how much they're going out. They have two outings out for food: ramen and brunch at a cafe. I was happy to cook for us because Nina loathes it.
The menu for that evening was a whole salt baked fish for Garth, Mr NQN and I and the eggplant caponata with halloumi for Nina. There were also dips, cheeses, dessert and Aperol spritzes. It was at Garth's brother's house as they were house sitting so we also had their dog Marley as well as Ebony, his brother's dog as company.
It's a gorgeous house but house sitting someone else's home means that setting the table and cooking takes more time because you spend a lot of time opening drawers and cupboards trying to find items. I don't know if Garth's brother's family cook much because there weren't a lot of tools but the biggest mystery was how they managed to do the washing up.
"I can't find a scrubber or anything to wash up with," said Nina. "I've been cleaning dishes using my fingers with detergent!" and she demonstrated her new unusual dishwashing skills.
"Do you think use the dishwasher for everything?" I asked. "Did they throw their scrubber out just before they went away?" I guessed. Or did they use their hands like Nina? I once cooked in a woman's amazing kitchen who had no tea towels, she just used paper towels and she must have gone through a roll every 2-3 days.
Anyway, apart from that, dinner was easy. I made the caponata and pan fried the halloumi ahead of time and although I worried whether the halloumi would be ok, we just heated it up and it was still delicious. Dinner was easy and the dogs well behaved. However, we never did figure out the mystery of the dish scrubber!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you not hand wash? What do you think is the most likely explanation for the scrubber mystery?
Eggplant Caponata & Halloumi
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
- 1/4 cup salt
- 500g/1.1lbs eggplant
- 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
- 250g/8.8ozs tomatoes
- 3/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- 1/4 cup currants
- 100g/3.5ozs. pitted black olives
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Chilli (optional)
- Salt and pepper to season
- 250g/8.8ozs halloumi, sliced
Step 1 - Cut the eggplant up into small cubes and generously sprinkle with 1/4 cup of salt and toss with hands and allow to drain while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Rinse the eggplant under running water and drain.
Step 2 - Take a large cast iron pot and heat some oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute until fragrant, then add the eggplant, tomatoes, water, tomato paste, capers and currants. Bring to a simmer and then place the lid on and simmer stirring to make sure all the eggplant is cooked. I use water as eggplant can really soak up oil a lot.
Step 3 - After 20 minutes add the olives, red wine vinegar and chilli and season to taste. It may need another 10-15 minutes simmering until it becomes soft and luscious.
Step 4 - Meanwhile add some oil to a frying pan and pan fry the halloumi slices. Drizzle with chilli oil. Place the eggplant on a serving plate and then top with halloumi.