Home-grown ratatouille

✓Gluten-free ✓Grain-free ✓Low sugar ✓Low-carb ✓Dairy-free ✓Nut-free

Ratatouille is a delicious mediterranean dish, a lush and vibrant garlicky stew of melt-in-the-mouth summer vegetables, dripping with healthy extra virgin olive oil. It is wonderful hot or cold, eaten on its own, with a salad or with many summer dishes: seafood, cold meats or on the side with barbecued meats…

If you haven’t tried ratatouille you must give it a go.

Better still, grow your own! O.K. that’s not possible for all of us, but if you have a garden and preferably a greenhouse, then it is not only possible, but it makes great use of the sudden glut of summer vegetables. BTW All of the pictures of veg in this post are from our own garden!

We grow red, orange and green bell peppers and more aubergines than we know what to do with in our greenhouse. Out in the garden we raise yellow and green courgettes, along with red and white onions and garlic. All the veg you need for a wonderful ratatouille!

Ratatouille (makes probably 10 portions)

2 large aubergines
3 medium courgettes (green or yellow)
3 medium red or white onions
3 or 4 peppers (red, green, orange, yellow, pick and mix)
3-6 ripe tomatoes + 1 tbs tomato puree (or 1 jar passata, or 1-2 cans of tomatoes)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
6-8 tablespoons olive oil (or more)
salt and freshly milled black pepper
Optional: mixed herbs, fresh basil or cayenne pepper

Step 1, aubergines

The aubergines need cooking ahead of the rest of the ingredients. Don’t rush this step as chewy aubergine spoils the final texture.

Cut your aubergines into chunks. They can differ in size, as this will enhance the final dish (some more broken down than others)

Place them in a heavy based pan with lots of hot (not smoking) extra virgin olive oil and cook, stirring about every now and then, on medium heat for 20 minutes or longer. The oil will be absorbed very readily, so add more as this takes place. The slices change colour as they take up the oil, becoming translucent and melty. When they are really softened, yielding and surrendered, and only then, add the other veg (which you were preparing whilst the aubergine was cooking)…

Step 2, other vegetables

Chop the onions, peppers and courgettes into chunks. Crush the garlic.

When the aubergine is ready add these ingredients, stir in the above vegetables, starting with the onions, and cranking up the heat a bit more so as not to cool everything down and after about 10 mins add the courgette and peppers. Cook for another 30 minutes or more until all the ingredients are softening, stirring every now and then to ensure even cooking is taking place.

Step 3, tomato sauce

I baled on this step, in that I didn’t make my own tomato sauce from home grown tomatoes. If you can find it in your heart, please forgive me. Ideally you will have already made many jars of your own tomato sauce, probably from last years glut of tomatoes, but if not, a couple of cans of chopped Italian tomatoes, or a jar of pasata, plus some tomato puree will suffice. Our tomatoes are well behind this year, so I used the ready made version on this occasion. Fortunately Sainsbury’s sells organic tomato puree in glass jars, and Waitrose sells an organic tomato passata in glass jars, so nothing to fret about too much. If, on the other hand, you have tons of tomatoes, grab some ripe ones, cut them in half and rub them through a grater, into a bowl, and you will have just what you need. (Tip: rub the inside face of the tomato against the grater surface, holding on to the skin side. You will be able to push all of the pulp through ending end with just the skin in your hand which you can discard)

Once the vegetables are soft add whichever tomato arrangement you are using, plus some tomato puree, and combine well.

Now add the garlic, the salt, pepper, mixed herbs or cayenne pepper to suit your taste. (If you want to use fresh basil in your ratatouille, add it right at the end. Cooking virtually destroys the flavour of this magnificent leaf, so wait until right before serving to chop and add this).

Stir and simmer for another 20 – 40 minutes until everything has combined into a glorious, red oily, bright, rounded mixture and flavour and texture. The vegetables should be pretty soft, definitely not al dente, but keeping their form and not turned to mush.

A bit like this…

That is what I call Mediterranean!

FAB!

 

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