Caponata with Eggplant & Prawns

the Sicilian dish caponata is eggplant-based, in some versions made with fish or shell-fish

Ingredients for 4 to 6 people

3 eggplants
20-24 prawns / circa 450-500 grams of meat once shelled
1 large red bell pepper
2 large tomatoes
1 red onion
2 or 3 cloves garlic
2 Tbls chopped fresh parsley
olive oil & salt

Instructions

Peel 1 eggplant entirely and the other 2 partially (in strips) and dice all three into about ¾ inch cubes. Transfer to a large platter or large baking dish and lightly sprinkle all the cubes with salt. Let rest for 15 minutes. (I don’t always purge/bleed eggplant, by the way. If the veg is super fresh, you could actually skip this step.) In the meantime you can prep the other ingredients.

Peel and de-vein the prawns if needed. When they are cleaned you should have at least 450 grams of meat.

Score and boil the tomatoes for 5 minutes. Remove them from the water and let cool.

Thinly slice the onion. Peel and smash the garlic cloves. Clean and finely chop the pepper. Chop the parsley.

The eggplant will have bled out its liquid after about 15 minutes. Drain off what liquid you can and pat off some liquid with paper towels if necessary.

Cover the bottom of a very large pan generously with olive oil and heat. When the oil is very hot, add all the cubed eggplant and toss immediately to cover the pieces with oil. Cook on medium-high heat for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The eggplant will shrink as it cooks, releasing more liquids and softening, which makes getting the ‘right’ texture a bit tricky. I think this is a matter of personal taste. Some say the eggplant in a caponata should be crisp (good luck with that); others prefer a softer texture. I judged mine to be ready when the eggplant was soft and tender. Scoop out the eggplant and place in bowl.

Peel and deseed the tomatoes, which should be cool now. Smash up the pulp and set aside.

Turn the pan back on medium-high. Add another tablespoon or two of oil if necessary. Add the onion and cook until soft, then add the garlic and pepper and cook until soft, then add the tomato, turn the heat to low, and stir well. Now add the prawns, making sure they cook in contact with the bottom of the pan. Turn after a few minutes or when they are cooked on one side. Cook another few minutes and now add the eggplant to the pan. Stir all very well and correct for salt. Add the parsley, gently combine, and let rest for a few minutes before serving.