Caponata is a Sicilian fried vegetable salad that works brilliantly with oily fish as the vinegar cuts the richness of the mackerel. Great for bbqs as the salad works best if not put in the fridge and should be served at room temperature.
Mackerel Fillets - 6, ask your fishmonger to 'V pin bone them'
Mild olive oil - 500ml
1 medium red onion
1 bulb of fennel
1 small aubergine
2 sticks of celery
4 ripe plum tomatoes - seeds removed, roughly chopped
Good extra virgin - a glug
25g toasted pine nuts
4 tbsp passata
1 small buch of basil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
Fine Polenta (dry) - 100g
Rosemary - 1 sprig
1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
Prep the onion, fennel, aubergine, celery and courgette then cut into 1 cm dice keeping each vegetable separate. Heat the mild olive oil in a pan of sufficient size that the oil fills the pan to a depth of 2cm. Gently fry each vegetable in turn until it has softened and takes on a little colour. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and drain well on kitchen roll. Repeat until you have cooked all the vegetables.
In a large bowl mix the red wine vinegar and sugar until it has dissolved. Add the pine nuts, sultanas, plum tomatoes, passata and most of the basil torn into small pieces. Mix in the still warm vegetables and season well. Allow to rest at room temperature for an hour or so.
To make the polenta, boil 200ml of water with the vegetable bouillon powder. Throw in the polenta, turn down the heat and stir well until the mix gets really thick. Stir in the finely chopped rosemary and check for seasoning. Spread the mix out onto an oiled baking tray and allow to cool - it should set to a pastry like consistency. Tip onto a board and chop up into rough pieces about the size of a large grape. Dust with flour and deep fry in the oil in which you fried the vegetables. You want the polenta to be crispy and golden - when it is ready, remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.
Season the mackerel and grill skin side up until cooked. Taste your caponata and add more sugar, vinegar or seasoning if you think it needs it - it should be mildly sweet and sharp.
Serve the caponata at room temperature with the hot crispy polenta chips and the mackerel on top. Sprinkle with more basil and a drizzle of good olive oil.