IT SEEMED like it was never going to happen, but summer has finally arrived in the UK.

The fact that our summers are seemingly fleeting bursts of sweltering heat means that we need to make the most of it while it lasts, so I’ve been thinking of food that is perfect for eating outdoors.

When you are dining al fresco, you don’t want to be bothering with multiple plates, serving dishes and cutlery spread across tables that were perfectly laid until that big gust of wind came along.

What you want is food that is easy to make, that you can eat with your hands without needing to sit at a table.

The ultimate food for eating easily outside, with your hands, with minimal fuss, has to be a good old-fashioned sandwich, but when it comes to Italian favourites, there are just too many to mention.

I wanted to share with you something that would please everyone; something substantial, that could be eaten hot or cold; something that would appeal to vegetarians as well as carnivores; a sandwich so delicious, you couldn’t possibly miss meat from the equation.

Then it hit me: a Caponata sandwich.

The dish Caponata originates from Sicily, however its name is said to be of Spanish influence. Some describe it as a relish, others like more of a stew, but what is consistent in all descriptions and recipes is that the main ingredient is an aubergine.

Rumour has it that the dish dates back to the middle ages. Those who were rich would prepare and enjoy the dish with meat or fish, but most of the population simply could not afford these ingredients, and subsequently substituted meat for much cheaper vegetables, like aubergines.

Caponata is actually very easy to make, because once you add the ingredients to the pan, it is a very hands-off recipe. If you want to take things a step further, you can even make your own bread.

A baguette or a ciabatta roll both work well for a Caponata sandwich topped with fresh mozzarella, and ciabatta rolls are actually pretty simple to make – making your delicious looking and tasting sandwich seem all the more impressive.

The great thing about Caponata is that it can be served hot or cold, so it’s great for enjoying warm at home, or cold in sandwiches packed for a picnic.

After making your Caponata and your ciabatta rolls, slice one of the rolls in half before spooning the mixture generously inside.

Top the Caponata with a couple of slices of fresh mozzarella and enjoy – but whether you are tucking into the sandwiches in your house, dining al fresco in your garden or enjoying a picnic in the park, just be sure to pack some napkins because this could get messy.

• Have you missed any of Nick’s previous La Dolce Vita articles in the Keighley News? Never fear, simple visit, click on What’s On then Food & Drink, and tuck into many tasty recipes.