Food & Drink: READER RECIPE / Strong Sicilian tastes

THE showy business of cookery competitions behind us, we resume the rather more humble reader recipe series. Its summer topic, Italian cooking in the British kitchen, has only improved with the weather.

The following recipe, from Patricia Clark of Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, is for caponata. She discovered this Sicilian dish when reading Elizabeth David's Italian Food. She will receive a bottle of 1990 Cepparello from Isole e Olena, which we buy from the Italian specialists, Winecellars of south London.

Caponata

Serves 6 as starter

Ingredients: 4 medium aubergines

1 large onion

4tbs olive oil

4fl oz (115ml) tomato puree

2tbs sugar

6-8tbs red or white wine vinegar

1 head celery

8 anchovy fillets, chopped

4oz (115g) black olives, halved and pipped

2 heaped tbs capers, rinsed

2 heaped tbs chopped parsley, plus more for garnish

1 standard tin tuna, drained

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation: Slice aubergines, salt the slices thoroughly, and layer them in a colander to drain for at least 1 hour. This will purge the harsh-tasting juices. Pat dry with clean cloth, then chop the aubergine into dice-sized cubes. Heat 2tbs olive oil in large cast- iron frying pan until a hot haze rises above the pan; tilt the pan so it is well coated. Reduce heat and fry aubergine until soft. Reserve.

Wash, chop and blanch celery in salted boiling water. Reserve.

Peel and slice onion. Prepare frying pan with oil (see above) and add onion. Reduce heat and cook, tossing onions until they are tender and translucent, not burnt (about 10 min). This will release their natural sugars. Add tomato puree and sugar.

Cook 30 seconds; add vinegar. Simmer briefly, (about 5 min), then add chopped anchovies, celery, olives, capers, parsley, tuna and fried aubergine.

Continue cooking for a minute or two, and mix well. Allow to mature for several hours in a serving dish. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve at room temperature with hot toast and green salad.

NEXT week we will have more Italian recipes. New entries, including any for our next category, cool dishes for hot days, are welcome. Please specify the source and send them to: Emily Green, Recipe, Weekend Features, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

Those whose recipes we print will receive either the Cepparello or, for summer food, a bottle of Sancerre Rose Les Romaines 1992 Vacheron, an elegant Loire wine made from pinot noir grapes and supplied by Reid Wines of Hallatrow, near Bristol.

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