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  • Isabella Akshay

Couscous Arancini with Caponata & Smoked Scamorza

Updated: Oct 21

Sicilian cuisine is very diverse as it has been influenced by the many cultures and peoples that ruled our wonderful land for centuries.


One of the best gifts we received from our North African neighbours is certainly couscous. It seems that couscous has been used in Sicilian cuisine for 500-600 years!


But while in the African coast it is a staple food, usually prepared with meat and vegetables, in Sicily (and especially in the Western part of the island) it is usually a dish for special occasions, served with the freshest fish and seafood caught in the Mediterranean Sea.


So what happens if you combine 3 amongst Sicily’s most special dishes - couscous, arancini and caponata? I guess you’ll have to try for yourself to find out!


Note: this is a lighter, simplified version of Caponata which normally requires the ingredients to be fried one by one in abundant oil.


Ingredients (for 4)


For the caponata:

  • 1 eggplant, cubed

  • 250g tomato passata (I use Mutti)

  • 80ml vinegar (adjust to taste)

  • 1 red + 1 yellow pepper chopped

  • 20g raisins

  • 1 onion, sliced finely

  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped

  • A handful of pitted green olives, finely chopped

  • A few parsley leaves

  • 1 tbsp capers

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • 4 tbsp evo oil

  • 1/2 tap chilli powder

  • 1 tsp ras el hanout (optional)

  • Salt to taste

For the couscous:

  • 300g medium grain couscous

  • 2 tbsp evo oil

  • 400ml veggie stock

  • A pinch of salt

To assemble:

  • The caponata sauce

  • The couscous

  • 100g smoked scamorza cubed

  • 500g fine breadcrumbs

  • 150g all purpose flour

  • Salt to taste

  • 1l peanut or sunflower oil for deep frying

Method


Firstly, make the caponata. Brown the onion over low heat in a non-stick pan with the oil for about 10 mins.


Add eggplants and peppers to the pan with the onion, celery. Mix and cook for about 5 mins. At this point add tomatoes, capers, olives, chilli, ras el hanout and raisins. Season with salt and sauté for 15 minutes or until the veggies are cooked through.


Add vinegar, brown sugar, and increase the heat to let the vinegar evaporate. Allow to cool to room temperature and top with fresh parsley.


Now, make the couscous. I made this the quick way because in this case it's okay if the grains form some lumps.


Add the couscous to a large bowl, season with the olive oil and mix well with your hands making sure all the grains are separate.


Bring 400ml of veggie stock and salt to a boil and pour over the couscous. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. Uncover, separate the grains with a fork and let the residual steam escape. Take 2-3 generous spoons of tomato passata and stir them in, mixing to combine. Allow to cool completely then place in the fridge for at least 1 hour (or best if overnight).


Make a thin batter by mixing the flour with a little water.


Wet your hands in a little water, then scoop one heaped tbsp of couscous into your hand. Pressing your thumb in the centre, add 1 tbsp of caponata sauce and 2 small pieces of scamorza.


Top with a little more couscous applying a small pressure to form a smooth ball. Roll the ball in the flour-water batter first, then in the breadcrumbs (to which you’ve added a little salt).


Deep fry in hot vegetable oil and drain excess on kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining couscous.

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