i flew in on sunday afternoon to find london in a summer haze. it was the hottest day of the year so far, and going past regent's park i was surprised to see an army of people in various states of undress.

i love it when the brits go sun-crazy - i used to find it disasteful in a slightly patronising way of someone who grew up on hot summers. but now i've been here for so long that even i feel slightly dizzy when it's possible to go out in just sandals.

there is something special about british summers, come to think of it, mainly because you never know when it'll turn rubbish again. or maybe it's because, even when hot, summers are never the brutal affairs known to our european neighbours. it's a more genteel affair altogether.

i had to have a summery dinner for a day like this. this usually means italian so i thought i'd make caponata. it's an aubergine stew, really. i reckon it's one of those dishes that has dozens of recipes to its name, none of which bear any resemblance to the real thing. and i have to confess that mine was driven by the desire to use a tin of tomatoes with chopped olives bought by mistake. as rich hates olives, despite many attempts to get to like them, that tin was never going to be eaten unless he was away.

for two - i had the rest for lunch the next day, at room temperature, with two fried eggs on top

1 aubergine, cut into chunks
1/2tsp dried oregano
2 shallots or 1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, squashed
a hadful of parsley, leaves and stalks, finely chopped
1tbs capers (rinse them well or they'll be too salty)
a handful of green olives
2-3 large tomatoes, chopped, or 1/2 tin of tomatoes with olives in my case
1-2tbs balsamic vinegar

in a large pan, heat some olive oil and fry the aubergine with the oregano on high heat for a few minutes. stir the pan every now and again - you want the aubergine pieces to be golden brown on all sides. you might have to add more olive oil - i did - as they absorb so much.

add the onion, garlic and parsley stalks and continue cooking for another couple of minutes, lowering the heat so the garlic and onion don't burn. then add the capers, the olives and the vinegar and stir until the vinegar has evaporated. add the tomatoes, and cook for 15 or so minutes or until the aubergines are soft. season with salt and pepper and serve hot as a side dish or at room temperature on its own.


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