Wednesday, 2 September 2009


As I mentioned in my first ever post, I love ratatouille. Even though it's really a summer concoction I find it really cheering in winter, although that means having to make it with hothouse vegetables, but I doubt many aubergines sold in the UK are grown here so I don't feel too bad about that. (Does anyone know if aubergines do grow in the UK?)

Ratatouille is wonderful hot, tepid or cold when it starts to seem relish-like, which you can play up by chopping it up a bit more. A few days ago I had it on toast for a late breakfast. It is great with roast meat, esepcailly lamb or pork but most often I have it on top of rice, which is how I ate this, with plenty of soft red wine.

I think that a ratatouille is so much better if you cook all of the vegetables separately. This may seem excessively effortful but unless you have an enourmous frying pan then most of them will not be in contact with the base and rather than gently frying in oil then will steam. There is little to love in a steamed ratatouille. For the same reason I tend to use A LOT of oil, it helps the vegetables caramelize. You can drain out the excess before adding the tomatoes but remember that it is supposed to be quite oily.

For enough for two large servings and some leftovers I used one onion, one aubergine, two peppers, two courgettes, two cloves of garlic and a tin and a half of tomatoes - this is also the order in which I cook them. Despite many cooks advising it I don't see much point in salting aubergines to remove water or bitterness. I have never some across a particularly bitter specimen so I think that this must have more of a problem in the past and that it has now been bred out of them. However, aubergines do soak up masses of oil so don't use too much when frying them if you want to avoid creating oil-sponges. One of my housemates told me her dad (who is a fantastic cook) cooks them will a mixture of water and oil to stop them getting to greasy and I think I will try that next time.

So, fry each vegetable in olive oil until soft and slightly browned, then decant to a bowl and start on the next one. Once they're all done add the tomatoes and a pinch or two of salt - use more or a bit of water if it seems to dry - and cook very gently for an hour or so. I'd forgotten until I started writing this that I used to eat it with goats cheese when I lived in Aix. I wish I'd bought these that I saw at Borough Market on Friday.

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