Beef with fennel caponata

Neil Perry
Fruity: Beef with fennel caponata.
Fruity: Beef with fennel caponata. Photo: William Meppem

Classic caponata is a Sicilian dish, usually a dice of eggplant (sauteed with celery, onion, and garlic) with a sweet-sour sauce, and often with dried fruit and pinenuts. The sweet-sour nature of this dish, and the use of fruit and nuts, can be traced back to the ninth century, when the Moors came to Sicily.


2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp chopped thyme leaves

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

600g piece of beef fillet

2 small fennel

1 red onion

2 small celery stalks

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

5 cloves garlic, cut in half

⅓ cup sundried tomatoes

2 tbsp salted baby capers, rinsed

¼ cup Ligurian olives

small handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 tsp red wine vinegar


1. Combine the balsamic vinegar, half the thyme and three tablespoons of oil in a bowl and then pour mixture over beef fillet. Cover and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 200C. Trim the ends of the fennel. Dice fennel, onion and celery into 1.5 centimetre pieces. Place in a roasting tray with the garlic, toss in seasoning and remaining oil. Cover with foil and place in oven. Bake for 40 minutes.

3. Remove beef from marinade and season with salt. In a hot pan, add one tablespoon of oil then seal the outside of beef until golden brown. Cook in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until desired tenderness (if using a temperature thermometer, medium rare is 55C). Remove from oven and allow to rest, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Dice sundried tomatoes about the same size as the roasted vegetables. Stir the tomatoes through the vegetables and continue to bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven, add capers, olives, parsley, the rest of the thyme and red wine vinegar. Toss gently and adjust seasoning if necessary.

5. Cut beef fillet into four portions and serve with fennel caponata on the side.


-  This is a fantastic relish to serve alongside roast lamb or roast chicken, and is also awesome with roasted or barbecued tuna. Here, I have added fennel, and sundried tomatoes for fruitiness.