Dice the aubergines, roughly 2 x 2 cm dice (3/4" x 3/4"), and put the dice into a colander, sprinkle with lots of salt and leave to rest for a couple of hours. The salt will extract the bitter dark juice from the aubergines (if you want to know more about this technique, check “preparing aubergines”, featured in the top tips section of the website). After two hours, rinse the aubergines and pat them dry before frying them.
Meanwhile, you have plenty of time to prepare the rest of the vegetables. Slice the courgette into 3 mm (1/8") thick slices. Do the same with the celery.
Peel the skin off the peppers. If your pepper have a full round profile, a peeler will save you lots of hassle; otherwise you can use a pairing knife and with a bit of patience you will get the job done.
Then, cut the peppers into strips, roughly 5 cm (2") long and 5 mm (3/16") thick; I wouldn’t go any thicker than this because it will be more difficult to sauté them.
This is the stage where the vegetables are ready to be fried. The timing for the frying is dictated by the aubergines, which need to go through a self cleaning process before to use them. Once the aubergines are ready, lay the vegetables to be fried onto a kitchen towels and see the next stage.
Just before you start frying, revive the raisins soaking them in lukewarm water for about 15-20 minutes, then drain them using a little sieve and set aside.
Put the light olive oil into a pan suitable for deep frying. Heat the oil until it gets the right temperature for frying.
Start with the aubergines, frying the dice for about 4 minutes.
After 4 minutes, remove the aubergine dice with a slotted spoon and put them into a large bowl lined with kitchen paper, to absorb the excess oil.
Using the same oil, fry the courgette for 4 minutes and then put them onto kitchen paper.
The same applies for the celery. Fry for 4 minutes and then put the slices onto kitchen paper.
Finally, once the excess oil is absorbed, then you can put all three fried vegetables together and set aside.
The next step is the initial sauté. Put the extra virgin olive oil into a large pan, bring the heat to medium and gently start to sauté the onion.
When the onion starts softening (I would say after 2-3 minutes), add the peppers and continue with the sauté.
Give it a good stir so that both the onion and pepper are well coated with oil. Continue cooking until the onion becomes well golden in colour. This is the stage where you add the chopped tomatoes.
Add the chopped tomatoes.
Give it a good stir.
Add the dry basil.
Give it a good stir.
Add the diced potatoes.
Give it a good stir. If you think the sauce is too dry, there is nothing wrong in adding half a glass (roughly 100 ml - 3/8 cup) of boiled water.
Cover with the lid and cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat.
After 10 minuets, add the sugar.
Add the vinegar.
Add the capers.
Add the pine kernels.
Add the raisins.
Add the green olives.
Finally, add the sun dried tomatoes (roughly cut into pieces). I used sun dried tomatoes from a jar, the ones preserved in sunflower oil, so these were already soft. If you want to use the very dried ones you can buy in a sachet, remember to soak them first into lukewarm water to soften them a bit.
Give it a good stir.
Season with salt.
Season with pepper.
Add the fried vegetables into the pan.
Give it a good stir. Also in this case, if you think that the stew is too dry, half a glass of boiled water will help (this is what I did).
Cover with the lid and continue cooking for about 20 minutes over very low heat, gently stirring once or twice.
After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool down; traditionally it is best served cold (some people prefer it still hot).
Use some home made bread to prepare a bruschetta-like dish. Slice the bread.
Heat a cast iron grill pan.
Once the pan is piping hot, grill the bread on both sides.
Finally, serve the vegetable stew over a slice of bread.PS: this is where a good glass of south Italian red wine will come handy, to complete this Sicilian experience!