Not sure stew’s really the right word to describe this dish before you all start sweating in your t-shirts and thinking, “Why’s she making stew in summer?!” Actually, this is one of the most popular and widely eaten vegetarian dishes, not only in Cyprus, but generally around the Mediterranean. There are a few variations I’m sure and you can cook it with or without meat. I prefer mine without as I love to get the full flavours of all the rich, seasonal vegetables I put in. The great thing about this dish is that anyone can make it, no special skills or equipment required and it tastes spectacular, whether eaten hot or cold!
The basis for the dish is fresh onions and chopped tomatoes, that I like to use fresh. Don’t worry if you don’t have the time though, tinned tomatoes will also do. The key to getting the fullest flavours from this dish is to individually fry all the vegetables in olive oil, then make the tomato sauce separately and add back the fried veg. Of course, spices are also an important feature and I like to add lots of ground cinnamon, coriander, cloves, cumin and black pepper.
You will need (to serve 4):
2-3 aubergines, depending on their size, cubed
2 courgettes, cubed
150g okra, topped and tailed then halved
2 small green peppers, finely chopped
2 red peppers, finely chopped
3 medium onions or fresh spring onions, finely diced
8 juicy red tomatoes on the vine, cubed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Half a teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cloves, black pepper
Half a bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh thyme
Salt to taste at the end
Olive oil and sunflower oil for frying
Make sure all of your vegetables are chopped and diced and separated.
Heat some olive oil and sunflower oil together in a deep, large pot and start by frying the aubergines. Once lightly browned remove from the pot and transfer to a large bowl or other pot.
Fry the courgettes next and once lightly browned transfer to the same pot as the aubergines. Do the same for the peppers and the okra.
Set aside the fried vegetables and now make your tomato sauce ‘Salca’. Soften the onions, on a low heat until transparent and beginning to brown. Add the chopped tomatoes and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
Now add back all the fried vegetables, tomato paste and lemon juice. Stir well and bring to the boil for ten minutes.
Add all your spices and the sprig of time. Turn the heat down low and allow to cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Tip: if you have an ovenproof pot then you can also allow to slow cook in the oven for the same about of time at 200*C/Gas mark 7.
Near the end of cooking, the sauce should have thickened and the vegetables softened. Add the chopped parsley and salt to taste. Cook for a further 10 minutes.
Serve with lots of bread, rice, roasted potatoes or even pasta!