In late Summer/early Autumn shops here are full of peppers, herbs, onions, tomatoes, aubergines (eggplants) and courgettes (zucchini). They’re just crying out to be put together for a lovely fresh bowl of Ratatouille. This would make a lovely light meal on its own, maybe with some crusty French bread on the side to mop up the juices. If you’re vegetarian and want to add some extra protein then I have occasionally added a tin of ready cooked white haricot or borlotti beans in the last 10 minutes, just to heat through. Alternatively take the original Ratatouille mix and put it in a shallow, oven proof dish. Sprinkle with cheese and flash under a hot grill until the cheese starts to brown (very satisfying on a chilly evening). This dish is absolutely bursting with Mediterranean flavour and goodness – olive oil, brightly coloured veg and garlic – just what the doctor ordered.
Before we begin, let me just say that you should keep the vegetable chunks quite large and stir very gently, otherwise the mix can all too easily lose all texture.
Ingredients (for 4 people)
2 large aubergines (eggplants), roughly chopped
4 courgettes (zucchini), roughly chopped
150ml / 1/4 pint / 2/3 cup olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large red pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
2 large yellow peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
sprig of fresh rosemary
sprig of fresh thyme
5ml / 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
3 plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
8 basil leaves, torn
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sprigs of parsley or basil, to garnish
Aubergines (eggplants) nowadays shouldn’t need salting but if you know you are using an old-fashioned variety: place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, pop a plate and then a weight on top and leave for 30 minutes for the bitter juice to run out.
Otherwise, begin by heating the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and fry gently for 6-7 minutes, until just softened. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
If you had salted the aubergine (eggplant) rinse it and pat dry with a clean dish towel. Add the aubergine to the pan with the red and yellow peppers, increase the heat and saute until the peppers are just turning brown.
Add the rosemary, thyme and coriander seeds, then cover the pan and cook very gently for 40 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook gently for a further 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not too mushy. Remove the sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Stir in the torn basil leaves and check seasoning. Leave to cool slightly and serve warm or cold, garnished with sprigs of parsley.