Ratatouille-2

Ratatouille

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 2-3 hours

Serves: 4-6 as a main

Is there a better way to celebrate summer vegetables? I think not. Ratatouille is a great dish to have on hand, as it can be used to make so many meals: Bruschetta, with grilled or soft polenta, on its own soaked up with crusty bread (my favourite), in a sandwich, with pasta, in a tart or as a side dish to whatever you want.

This is a very simple dish that tastes a lot fancier than it is. The secret lies in the cooking time. I have been served some truly horrendous ratatouille in my time, with crimes such as undercooked eggplant (really there is nothing worse than this), crunchy chunks of vegetables served in a runny tomato sauce,  and a quick ‘stir fried’ ratatouille (just NO). Ratatouille is a stew, which means everything should be soft and mingled, and thick. The flavour comes from the vegetables slowly melding into one another, to allow their sweetness to develop. If you cook it slow and long, you can’t go wrong.

I like to roast my capsicums first because I don’t enjoy the skin in my ratatouille, and I bake the eggplant instead of frying it because it’s easier and tastes just as good. Don’t be tempted to try and fry it in your enamel dutch oven to save one dish – eggplant needs high heat and enamel needs low heat.

You can also cook it on the stove top on the lowest possible heat if you don’t have an oven, but you will need to keep an eye on it and you won’t be able to cook it as long. It is best served at room temperature.

Ingredients

3 zucchini (approx 700g), diced into 2-3cm cubes

2 eggplants (approx 900g), diced into 1.5cm cubes

2 whole red capsicums

2 large brown onions, halved and finely sliced

6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 tsp Herbes de Provence OR 3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to garnish

1 400g tin diced tomatoes

4 tomatoes, diced

2 bay leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method

1. Toss the eggplant with 2 tsp salt in a bowl and set aside for 15 minutes

2. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200C. Place the whole capsicums onto a piece of foil and cook in the oven until the skin starts to blacken and become loose and the flesh is soft (approx 20-30 mins). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

3. Mix 1 tbsp olive oil with the eggplant and place onto an oven tray. Place into the hot oven and cook for 15 minutes until soft. Remove and turn the oven down to 150C.

4. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a dutch oven over low heat and add the onions. Cook slowly, stirring often, until soft, slightly brown and sticky. Add the zucchini with a pinch of salt and cook until just soft. Turn off the heat.

5. Peel the capsicum and discard the seeds. Thinly slice and add to the pot with the eggplant, tomatoes, tinned tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Stir well. Place the lid on the pot and cook in the oven for 2 hours.

6. Remove from the oven and uncover. Season generously with freshly ground pepper and adjust salt if desired and allow to cool to warm or room temperature – it is not best hot. Serve with generous amount of fresh basil (not one leaf as shown in the picture – we were hungry and ate it all).

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