Ratatouille is a slightly retro Provencal classic that I mainly remember from my childhood (I have not seen it turning up on any menus recently). It was one of the few dishes that my vegetable hating childhood self could be persuaded to eat. Whether this was because I liked the taste, or I liked the opportunity to make Fawlty Towers references ad nauseum is not clear (it was probably a bit of both). There is probably another generation of children now being coaxed into their vegetables by way of the Pixar film.
Ratatouille is a simple vegetable stew. The only thing it really needs is time. There are many different ideas on how it should be made, such as the Larousse’s time consuming and pointless sounding exhortation to peel the aubergines. I amalgamated a few approaches, but think that the key is to fry each vegetable separately before bringing them together. As we had both cherry tomatoes and red onion hanging about, we used both in this, although a tin of good Italian chopped tomatoes would usually be my preference. We also forgot about peppers until after the shops were closed, but they should usually be involved. This serves 3-4 as a side dish.
- 1 large aubergine
- 1 large courgette
- 1 red onion
- 200g cherry tomatoes
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 handful chopped basil leaves
- Olive oil
- Chop the aubergine and courgette into 1cm dice.
- Saute the aubergine first in a large pan big enough to eventually cook all of the vegetables.
- Saute for 15-20 minutes over a medium heat, stirring frequently.
- The aubergine should be quite soft and melting by the end of this, but still maintaining its shape.
- Remove with a slotted spoon.
- Add the courgette, top up the oil if needed, and cook in the same manner.
- Roughly chop the tomatoes and onion while the courgette is cooking.
- Remove the courgette with a slotted spoon.
- Saute the onion for about 10 minutes until softened, then add the chopped cloves of garlic and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
- Add all the vegetables and stir well to mix.
- Cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, then gently break up the tomatoes into the stew with a fork.
- Add the basil.
- Continue to cook for about 20 minutes, or until everything is quite soft and coming together (add water if it becomes too dry).
- Season and serve warm (it also keeps and reheats very nicely).