Ratatouille

As far as French cuisine goes, my repertoire pretty much starts and ends with ratatouille. And the French would probably be upset with my version of it, as I’m not a purist… but I personally think it’s pretty darned yummy 🙂

Ratatouille is basically a chunky stew with tomato as its base, usually featuring onions, zucchini, eggplant, capsicum, and a mixture of hard and soft herbs such as thyme, marjoram and basil. My ratatouille is basic and really, really garlicky, featuring only my favourite vegetables – eggplant, zucchini and onion. As for herbs, I favour a combination of thyme and oregano with just a touch of basil.

Versatile as it gets, you can serve ratatouille for lunch, brunch or dinner, and accompany it with bread, potatoes or polenta in a dizzying array of ways. My favourite way is to serve it with pan-fried herbed polenta, but a chunk of crusty French bread will do just fine, especially with a small bowl of re-heated leftovers 😀

Here’s how to concoct a heartwarming ratatouille to warm the cockles on a chilly eve…

Flavour: hearty, yet elegant

Serves: 2 as a main dish, or 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped (see here for my tomato-peeling hack)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar – raw, coconut , or rapadura
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Lebanese eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • generous grind black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • half teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 10 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups water

Directions:

  1. Start by caramelising your onion in a small saucepan, as this will take a while and you can get to work on other elements while this is under way
  2. Amateur tip – see here for how to caramelise an onion using your sugar, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and a pinch of salt
  3. Chop and salt your eggplant – small chunks about 0.5cm x 0.5cm is ideal; set aside
  4. Once your onion is well caramelised, rinse and dry off your eggplant, and add it to your onion – turn heat up to medium and cook for 2-3 minutes
  5. Add your tomato and zucchini to the eggplant-onion mixture, stir well, add half a cup of water, and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes; reduce heat to medium and simmer
  6. Check your ratatouille periodically to add more water as it reduces, but feel free to put your feet up or work on something else as this simmers away…
  7. Once your ratatouille is cooked and reduced, your eggplant will be nice and soft and the tomato well incorporated – now’s the time to reduce the heat to minimum, toss in your thyme and oregano, and stir to incorporate – leave over lowest heat possible until it’s time to serve up
  8. Just before serving up, stir in your basil, incorporate a generous grind of black pepper, and then get stuck in!

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