Winter

Ratatouille & 10 lovely ways to serve it

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Ratatouille is one of those meals that tastes like home. Amongst pastas, lasagnes, slow cooked meat and vegetable soups ratatouille is a dish that my Mum would make often. How she juggled us 3 kids while working from home and always making time to cook beautiful wholesome meals is something that I’m totally in awe of. Something that so many mothers do, which I admire immensely. With Dad running a very busy business the kitchen was mostly her domain, and ours; we spent a lot of time in the kitchen and around the kitchen. It was the hub of discussion, laughter and sharing. As young children we spent hours sitting on the kitchen bench helping mum sort, peel and cut things, wash things, stir bowls and more. Having us all well nourished was clearly important to her, we were spoilt with lovely food. Her European style of cooking, love for fresh produce and real love for cooking has somewhat rubbed off on me. It was inevitable.

One of Mum’s talents is to cook dishes that can be stretched in various tasty ways into many many meals – an efficient way to cook when life is full and your household is busy. She also still to this day makes the most scrumptious things ‘out of nothing’. When I have an almost empty fridge and have ideas but need some magic wisdom I’ll call Mum and ask “so I have this and this.. so I’m thinking I could make this, but use this instead, would that work..?” and she’ll giggle and say (sometimes in a mix of English and Swiss) “well yes you could, that sounds lovely, but hmmm I’d probably do this first and use this instead of this”.. the conversations we have sometimes. One of my favourite quotes of hers is “there’s always more than one way of doing things”. So when it comes to cooking (amongst many other things) she is my biggest inspiration.

So, ratatouille.

During the years when my brother, sister and I were all at home Mum would occasionally say “Maybe I’ll make ratatouille tonight” and we’d all say “yeeeeeeeaaaaaah!”. It’s such a fell good meal. So good. So delicate and flavoursome. A dish that’s tasty and light.

Plus, so very versatile. Many meals can be enjoyed from just one pot. For example, ratatouille with rice and chicken, with cous cous, on top of cheesy polenta or with pasta. It’s lovely with olives, a side of panfried/crumbed sardines (Mediterranean heaven), or just warmed with warm crusty bread. It also makes the most delicious base for baked eggs such as ratatouille shakshuka. Yum.

So this recipe is a simplified version of Mum’s. She adds rosemary and lots of garlic and onion, which is totally beautiful. But just to keep this recipe simple, extremely versatile and also ‘fodmap friendly’ I’ve left the garlic and onion out, using garlic infused olive oil for garlic touch. I’ve been working with several clients with with various food intolerances so promised them recipes that are extremely easy and just as tasty despite being onion and garlic free.

If you love onion and garlic though, do add it! Below are additional ingredient suggestions including herbs. Rosemary, thyme and parsley all work well.

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Preparation time: ~15-20mins

Cooking time: ~30-45mins

Ingredients:

  • A good dash of garlic infused olive oil (or plain Extra virgin olive oil) – to make garlic infused oil just add a few peeled garlic cloves to a big bottle of olive oil, so easy.
  • 1 large eggplant, washed and cut into medium cubes/pieces
  • 2 capsicums, cored and sliced into square-ish pieces (red capsicums are particularly nice in this dish, but yellow and green work well too)
  • 2 medium zucchinis, washed and sliced
  • 8 large tomatoes (~1kg), washed and chopped roughly
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Salt and cracked pepper to season
  • Parsley to serve

Recommended additions: If you love garlic & onion I recommend adding then. Use 1-2 cloves and 1 sliced brown onion. Fry these first with olive oil until translucent, before adding other vegetables.

Alternative herb suggestions: Rosemary or thyme are both beautiful (add a sprig or two before simmering)

 

Method:

  1. Heat a non-stick pan to medium heat and fry eggplant pieces (no oil is required) until golden on both sides. Then set aside. This just accelerates the cooking process once simmering in the ratatouille and helps them to caramelise nicely. You can also roast the eggplant, if easier – just lay out on a sheet of baking paper and roast (at 180 degrees Celsius) until golden.
  2. In a large pot add olive oil and on low heat fry zucchini and capsicum just lightly for a few minutes. Then add eggplant, fry a little more and then add the tomatoes. Fry and stir for a minute, then add 1/2 cup of water, a pinch of salt and a good helping of cracked pepper. Stir and simmer on low heat for about 30mins, stirring occasionally to allow even simmering.
  3. If using onion and garlic: fry these until translucent just before adding other vegetables. If using herbs, add these with the tomatoes and water. 
  4. After 30mins of simmering check the eggplant – it should be totally soft and caramel-like. Having eggplant that totally melts in your mouth really makes this dish. It may take about 40-45mins of simmering depending on how thick your eggplant pieces are.
  5. Taste and season if need, and enjoy (some ideas are listed below). Ratatouille keeps in the fridge for days and freezes well too.

 

Lovely ways to serve ratatouille:

  • With rice or quinoa, just on its own, topped with fresh parsley, or served with a side of chicken or red meat (pan-fried, baked, roasted or bbq style) or fish (white flesh fish or pan-fried crumbed sardines for example)
  • With pasta, topped with parmesan and fresh parsley
  • With cous cous
  • Warmed and served with warm crusty bread (and boiled eggs for protein, if you like), a little Gruyere cheese is beautiful sprinkled on top
  • Stirred into a plain risotto just before serving (make a simple risotto with onion, garlic, white wine and stock, then just before ready to serve stir some ratatouille in, serve topped with parmesan and fresh parsley)
  • As a base for baked eggs, shakshuka style
  • Warm served with roasted potatoes (or a baked potato topped with cheese) and steamed green beans (an easy vegetarian meal)
  • As a lovely saucy vegetable layer in a lasagne
  • In a pasta bake, topped with mozzarella
  • Cold or warm with corn chips or homemade crunchy baked flat bread- ratatouille makes a nice hearty salsa

 

 

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