Maltese caponata and labneh

Crispy bread is topped with homemade caponata; a Maltese classic and perfect as a side dish or appetiser 

Ingredients

For the caponata

  • 1 large eggplant, cubed
  • 1 zucchini, cubed
  • Sprinkle of fi ne sea salt
  • ¼ cup & 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 2 green peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can of polpa di pomodoro
  • ½ cup green olives, sliced in half lengthwise
  • ¼ cup black olives, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 3tbsp capers
  • 1tbsp fresh mint
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2tbsp granulated sugar
  • Freshly cracked black pepper and fine sea salt, to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Chopped fresh basil

For the labneh

  • 400ml Greek yoghurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2tsp salt
  • Pinch of crushed pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Method

The caponata

  1. Place the cubed eggplant and zucchini in a colander and toss well with a sprinkle of salt. Let them sit for about an hour. Do not rinse. Preheat the oven to 180 °C.
  2. Place the eggplant and zucchini on a lined baking sheet. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and roast for 25-30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pan, sauté the chopped onions and peppers in ¼ cup of olive oil, gently, for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the celery and 2 tablespoons of water and sauté for another 3 minutes.
  5. Add the polpa di pomodoro and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the olives, capers, mint, vinegar and sugar and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  7. Finally add the roasted eggplant and zucchini, stir, and simmer for another 20 minutes, covered.
  8. Allow the caponata to sit and marinate for at least one hour (more time is better).
  9. Add a sprinkle of sea salt, some fresh cracked pepper, and a few drops of olive oil.
  10. Serve at room temperature or warmed with a bit of chopped fresh basil and some crunchy Maltese bread.

The labneh

  1. Line a fine strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and set over a bowl.
  2. In another bowl, combine the yogurt, salt, garlic and lemon juice. Stir to incorporate.
  3. Spoon yoghurt mixture into the cheesecloth-lined strainer and fold layers of cheesecloth over the yoghurt to cover completely.
  4. Transfer the yoghurt (and strainer and bowl) to the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. After 12 hours, the yoghurt mixture would have thickened into a standard labneh; after 24 hours, it would have thickened further into an extra-stiff labneh.
  5. Remove strained labneh from the fridge, unfold cheesecloth, and transfer to a serving bowl.
  6. Drizzle olive oil over the labneh and sprinkle with crushed pepper. Serve cold, topped with warm caponata on toasted Maltese bread.

This recipe appeared on Gourmet Today magazine, April 2019 

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