½ celery stick, diced, plus 2 chopped celery leaves to garnish
1 aubergine (preferably a round Sicilian variety), diced
5–6 Italian tomatoes, skins removed
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp capers
1 garlic clove, crushed
6-7 green olives, depending on size
sprig of mint, leaves removed and chopped, to garnish
10g toasted almonds, finely chopped, to garnish
For the stuffed lamb chops
6-bone rack of lamb, French-trimmed, cut into chops (ask your butcher to do this for you)
25g/1oz Stracchino or other Italian soft cheese such as mozzarella
½ tsp marjoram
50g/1¾oz plain flour
1 free-range egg
100g/3½oz fine breadcrumbs
50g/1¾oz unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
pane carasau (Italian flatbread), to serve (optional)
Preheat a deep-fat fryer to 180C. (CAUTION: hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended.) Place a griddle pan over a medium heat.
To make the caponata, heat a tablespoon oil in a frying pan and add the shallot. Cook for 5–8 minutes, or until softened. Set aside in the frying pan.
Meanwhile, plunge the celery into salted boiling water for 20 seconds, then remove and blanch in iced water.
Season the aubergine with salt and deep-fry for 5–10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove using a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
Dry-fry the skinned tomatoes on a griddle and set aside. Once cooled, cut into cubes.
Add the sugar, vinegar, oilive oil, capers and garlic to the shallot in the frying pan and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, then add the celery, aubergine, tomato and olives to the shallot mixture. Stir and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the mint, toasted almonds and celery leaves. Leave to marinate at room temperature for 1 hour, or longer if you have time. Caponata can be eaten hot or at room temperature, so reheat it just before serving if that is your preference.
For the lamb, carefully make an incision into the flesh of each lamb chop using a sharp knife to create a pocket in the meat. Stuff the pockets with the cheese and marjoram.
Place the flour, egg and breadcrumbs into three shallow bowls. Dip each chop carefully into the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs. Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan, add the chops and cook on each side for 4–5 minutes, or until the chops are golden brown and cooked through.
Serve the lamb chops immediately, with the caponata and the pane carasau (if using).