Celebrating the flavours of the island of Salina, Nonna Marina inspired me to embrace the beautiful bounty growing in her back garden and create this dish, perfect for a feast. Sumptuous, comforting, melt-in-your-mouth chicken, gentle spice and delicious, buttery aubergines.
- 3 aubergines (750g total)
- 1 x 1.4kg whole free-range chicken
- Olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 small fresh red chillies
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 sprigs of fresh woody herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, bay
- 50g baby capers in brine
- 2 red onions
- 200g ripe cherry tomatoes
- 50g pine nuts
- 2 lemons
- 4 sprigs of fresh basil
Trim the aubergines, chop into random 5cm chunks and wedges, place in a large bowl and season generously from a height with sea salt. Put aside.
Joint the chicken. Drizzle all the pieces with oil, place in a large shallow pan on a medium-high heat, skin side down, to get golden on all sides, then remove to a large platter.
Wipe the salt off the aubergines and add to the pan, turning until lightly golden on all sides. Remove the aubergines to the platter and reduce the heat under the pan to low.
Peel and slice the garlic, prick the chillies and place both in the pan with the cinnamon, woody herbs and capers. Stir and fry for a couple of minutes while you peel and finely slice the onions, then stir them into the pan, too.
Cook for 15 minutes, or until starting to caramelize, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Squeeze the tomatoes in a bowl of water to remove the seeds – a fine nonna trick to prevent you getting splattered – then tear them into the pan.
Put the chicken and aubergines back in, drizzle over any resting juices, then pour in 600ml of water.
Sprinkle over the pine nuts, then squeeze over the lemon juice.
Cook at the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes, or until golden. Pick over the basil leaves and serve with a nice big bowl of lemony couscous.