Sunday, 6 July 2014

When life gives you courgettes - make ratatouille


When I came home from holiday, I found two bad boys waiting for me in the fridge. And by that I mean two humongous courgettes. What else is a girl to do than make ratatouille? Also, eating a bit lighter is a great idea after my one week of all inclusive all day buffet holiday... We had hardly finished breakfast (you know, just a bit of scrambled eggs and bacon, maybe a fried egg as well, followed by a round of croissants and finished off with some donuts, slices of pineapple and watermelon) when it was lunchtime (although I admit we didn't make it to lunch every day as we were still digesting breakfast). And then came dinnertime with a full buffet of salads, cold cut meats, grilled fish and meats with all sorts of sides you could imagine, maybe a bit of pizza on the side, then the light round of cheese and crackers followed by dessert of fruits and small cakes and maybe to finish, you know just to cool off a bit, some chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup and sprinkles). All this to keep us fuelled for a busy day of lying on the beach, reading a book or maybe even walking along the beach with our toes in the wet sand. But that is all over now. So hence the need for a bit of ratatouille. And what could be better now that the garden is starting to produce some ratatouille ingredients. Looking at the number of courgette plants, I better start coming up with some more recipes soon.

Apparently the secret to a good ratatouille (according to Delia, and who am I to argue) is that your veggies need to be chopped into large enough chunks so they don't turn into mush when cooking, but retain their shape. I loosely used Delia's ratatouille recipe as a rough guide, although I did make some alterations, and used whatever veggies I happened to have around. This makes quite a big batch, so we had some for dinner, I popped a bit in the freezer and took some with me to work for lunch.

InvisiblePinkRatatouille (serves 4-6):
1 large courgette
2 medium aubergines
13 medium tomatoes (because that's what I happened to have in the fridge)
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh thyme and basil
3 tbsp tomato puree

The howto:
Roughly cut your courgette and aubergines into large chunks, place into a colander, sprinkle generously with salt, and mix. Weigh them down with a few plates or something else appropriate and leave for an hour or two to drain. This will remove the bitter taste from the aubergines, and also remove liquid to keep the ratatouille from becoming soggy. In the meanwhile, peel the skins of the tomatoes. This is easiest if you score a little cross on the bottom of the tomato with a sharp knife, then dip the tomato in cooking water for about 30 seconds or so, and then submerge in ice cold water. You can then easily peel off the skin. Remove the tomato seeds, and cut the tomato flesh into rough chunks (I cut them in half, removed the seeds and left them that size). Also, roughly chop your onions into chunks, as well as the peppers. Finely chop the garlic.

When the courgettes and aubergines have drained, rinse off the salt in cold water, and pat them dry with a clean towel or kitchen roll. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan to medium heat and add the onions. Cook the onion until starting to soften. Then add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the courgettes and aubergines along with chopped thyme and basil (I just eyeballed it, but I think I used about 2 tbsp of fresh finely chopped basil ann 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves) with a bit of salt and pepper. Let cook for about 10 minutes. Add the red peppers and tomatoes, add the tomato puree, give it a good stir and let cook for another 10-15 minutes. The veggies should not be mushy, but keep their colour and shape, and the cooking time will depend on the size of your veggie chunks. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. I rarely use salt in my food, but here I think it helps bring out the flavour of the veg. Serve as a side with meat, or as a veggie main on it's own.

The verdict:
I know ratatouille purists will say you shouldn't put tomato puree in it, and I'm not sure if these are the correct proportions of ingredients. But it turned out really nice, and it was even better the next day. I used quite a bit of thyme, so if you are not a huge fan, just reduce the amount a bit. I know some ratatouille recipes add sugar, but I don't think it was needed. This is such a simple, healthy and beautifully colourful food, and you can adjust it to include/exclude whichever veggies you like/have in the garden.

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