I remember first having ratatouille as a teenager. It was from a tin, but it was delicious. I love squishy squashy Mediterranean vegetables like aubergines and courgettes, I think because of the way they eat up olive oil which then squirts out when you’re eating them. Mmmmm.
As much as I enjoy tinned ratatouille (occasionally cold and straight from the can), the tomato sauce is artificial in taste because it’s been sweetened. My recipe below will produce a thinner sauce but it will taste more wholesome. You have to cook the vegetables separately, which takes time, but this way the individual vegetables keep their taste instead of you getting a mushy stew of veg.
When buying aubergines, it’s so tempting to go for the big and bulbous ones. Trick is though, to go for the slender and tall ones. These are the male vegetables and are naturally less bitter than the female because they have fewer seeds.
Oh, and it’ retro because once a 1980s dinner-party favourite, ratatouille isn’t served much nowadays. I keep the ratatouille flame alive! Serve it up as a side dish to chicken or fish or simply with an oven roasted jacket potato and lashings of Parmesan.
Serves 4 well as a side dish
– 6 tbsp olive oil
– 4 onions, sliced
– 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
– 2 large aubergines, thickly sliced width-ways
– 2 courgettes, sliced width-ways
– 2 red peppers
– 4 plum tomatoes
– Few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
– Handful of fresh basil
– 1 fresh bay leaf (or dried will do)
– Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat your oven to 200°/Gas Mark 6. Lightly brush your sliced aubergines on both sides with olive oil. Place on a foiled roasting tray and roast for 20 minutes or so until they are golden and tender.
2. Now prepare your peppers. Take the core and seeds out by cutting open the top of the pepper and shaking out the seeds. Quarter the peppers and brush lightly with oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
3. When your aubergines and peppers have roasted, just set aside for the time being and turn the oven down to 180°/ Gas Mark 4. Warm 1 tbsp of oil in a deep frying pan and cook your sliced onions until soft. Add your thinly sliced garlic cloves and mix in with the onions. Now add your thyme leaves, bay and a little salt and pepper. Finally, add your sliced courgettes and cook all together until your courgettes are soft. You might need to add a little more oil part-way through.
4. Now add your sliced plum tomatoes along with the oven roasted aubergines and peppers. Cook all together for 10 minutes.
5. Now transfer all of your ingredients to an oven proof dish and roast for 45 minutes. If you have time on your hands, you can turn the oven down to 150°/Gas Mark 2 after this cooking time and leave it for a little longer.
When ready, tear and stir in your handful of fresh basil.
And all of a sudden it’s like you’re actually in Provence. Oui Oui it will. If you have leftovers, just place in sandwich bags and freeze. Or leave it in the fridge and eat cold on toast!