My Aubergine & Pepper Caponata

Golden spice roasted aubergines are slowly simmered in a amalgamation of the Mediterranean holy grail of peppers and tomatoes and other delicious flavour things like pomegranate molasses and a fantastic balsamic vinegar.  

A good caponata, basically an aubergine stew, is the ultimate ‘scoop up’ sauce and it will be lovely scooped with a good homemade easy flatbreads or my overnight really ‘no knead’ focaccia! I love a little feta crumbled onto of it too. 

The perfect ‘Ode to the End of Summer’ dish, celebrating the best of the Mediterranean gardens like mine here in Vredehoek, Cape Town. I have had a bumper crop of aubergines this summer and I am thinking of other ways to eat them! The peppers and parsley were from my garden too! Look at me all green fingers!

Here are 5 more recipes using aubergines:

Traditionally, a caponata is a Sicilian dish with slowly simmered vegetables, usually aubergines, peppers, tomatoes and onions and it is seasoned with capers or olives.

In my unconventional and not traditional version, I played around with adding pomegranate molasses and an aged really good balsamic vinegar, playing around with the sweet & sour nature of a caponata. 

Ingredients Explained:

Pomegranate Molasses: A lovely thick sauce made from cooking down pomegranate juice, the taste is sour and sweet and it is such a lovely sauce to pour over salads, marinades and even ice cream. Its best to get an authentic one imported from the Middle East. You will find this at any good deli and I pick mine up at Olive Branch Deli. 

Kalamata Olives: One of my ‘things that make other things taste better’ ingredients and a staple in my fridge. Please don’t ever buy black olives, you know the dodgy ones you get on bad pizzas, instead invest in lovely plump purple olives. I get the pitted ones (here) but you can easily buy good quality ones from a trusted farm and pit them yourself (with this tool, also good for cherries!). 

Rose Harissa: Another Middle Eastern staple and I always have a jar of this in my fridge. Harissa is a spicy paste made from chillies and peppers and the Belazu brand makes one with added rose water (which I can’t really taste). I have made my own and need to make a good batch again. I get mine from Olive Branch Deli. 

Aged Balsamic: Balsamic Vinegars are not made equal, please invest in one that’s been aged and has a combination of sweet and vinegar. Cheaper ones tend to be just vinegar and the cooked down ones are just too sweet and thick. I like this one (here). 

It’s often served as a side dish or a relish and can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature. 

Serving Suggestions:

The combination of sweet and sour flavours makes it uniquely delicious and versatile, perfect for a mezzo platter served with

My Aubergine & Pepper Italian Caponata

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Diet Gluten-free, Vegan


  • extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 kg aubergines cut into bitesized chunks
  • 700 g fresh tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 3 red onions peeled, finely sliced
  • 100 g red or green peppers
  • 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon rose harissa optional
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar see note
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers roughly chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 tbsp chopped herbs (parsley or dill)

Spice Rub

  • 1 tsp szechuan peppers or normal black
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt & pepper
  • extra virgin Olive Oil


  • Preheat the oven to 200c, line a large baking tray with baking paper
  • To make the spice mix heat the pepper, fennel, cumin and coriander seeds in a small frying pan (no oil) until fragrant, tip into a mortar and pestle until fine, add the garlic clove, pinch each salt and pepper and enough good olive oil to form a paste.
  • Add the aubergines to the lined baking tray and pour the paste over, with your hand, rub the mixture into the aubergines. Its important that the aubergines lay in a single layer in the baking tray and don’t overlap each other. Drizzle with oil (yup a dry aubergine is a leathery aubergine) and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through, tuning once. Keep aside.
  • Meanwhile, in a large saucepan on a medium to high heat, add a good glug of oil, add the peppers, onions, garlic, pinch of salt & pepper and cook (you want to hear a good sizzle) until soft and starting to caramelise. Its best to keep the lid on while you are cooking the veg, this creates steam which keeps the veggie moist, moist veggie are happy veggies.
  • Once the veggies are soft, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, rose harissa (if using) balsamic vinegar, the olives and caper. Season well with salt & pepper, finally add the aubergines (and any pan juices or spice rub).
  • Gently simmer, with the lid on, for 40min until all the veggies have broken down, especially the aubergines and you have a lovely thick sauce. Taste and season with more molasses and/or balsamic vinegar to get that addictive salt and sweet taste. Add the chopped herbs.
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