Ratatouille is a French summer dish, – its focus on all the wonderful vegetables that reach their peak in late summer; zucchini, eggplant, capsicum, tomatoes and basil. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you like to eat according to the seasons) these days, with greenhouses and postharvest advancements, you can get these vegetables all year round.
This is my fail-safe vegetable dish. It’s super-easy, – cut everything into similar chunks, and cook in a big cast iron pot. It takes about 45 minutes from start to finish, and the aroma as the vegetables are simmering is just fantastic.
I like to take this to pot-luck dinners as just about everyone can eat this, – ratatouille is a vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free dish. This also freezes and reheats well, so it’s worthwhile to cook extra and bring some for lunch.
3 or 4 tomatoes (de-skinned and chopped roughly) – or 1 tin whole tomatoes
1 eggplant (diced)
1 onion (diced)
2 zucchinis (diced)
2 capsicum (diced) – I omitted this as I’m not a fan of capsicums, but if you are, use the red and yellow varieties for a splash of colour
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of thyme
a few basil leaves (I used a couple pinches of dried basil)
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped finely
If using fresh tomatoes, de-skin the tomatoes by scoring the bottom, then dunking into boiling water for 20 seconds. If you have asbestos fingers, you can just peel the skin away immediately, or if you’re like me, cool first by immersing in cold water. Chop the peeled tomatoes roughly. You can also used tinned whole tomatoes, and dice them.
Dice the vegetables into even chunks.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the onions over low heat for 5 minutes. If you are using capsicum, add them now, and cook for another 5 minutes (if not, then continue to sauté the onions). Remove.
Heat another tablespoon of oil; fry the diced eggplant until lightly browned. Remove.
Heat the last tablespoon of oil, and sauté the zucchini. Return the rest of the vegetables to the pot. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, garlic and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs and serve hot.