Derived originally from Provence in France, the name 'Ratatouille' comes from the word 'touiller' which means 'to toss food'. But it is too easy to get carried away and end up with a stew that jumbles too many tastes together.
Ratatouille is a vegetarian stew that combines fresh fruits, vegetables, onions, squash, pumpkin, eggplant and herbs. There are many ways to arrive at the final product.
It is important that the items are not overcooked and become mushy and lose their texture and individual tastes. Some of the options for cooking ratatouille are:
1. Stacking thinly sliced vegetables in layers and baking them.
2. Tossing all the cubed vegetables together
3. Cooking each ingredient separately to ensure they are just perfect and only assembling them into a final dish just before serving.
4. Adding the ingredients to the dish in order from the longest to cook ones to the least time to cook. This aims to have all items just perfect at the end
The best ratatouille is kept relatively simple and is based on a single theme. This partially depends on whether the ratatouille is to be served as a main dish, or as a side dish to accompany meat, fish, pasta of other dishes.
Ratatouille like meat and vegetables stews keeps well for the next day and can be frozen. It is nice served with crusty wholemeal bread and some cheese.
Preheat oven to 420 degrees F ( 215 degrees C). Put the eggplant into a bowl, add the oil, salt and pepper and mix to thoroughly coat the pieces. Distribute over a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a heavy frying pan, or Dutch oven and heat to hot. Add the zucchini, peppers, squash, onions and garlic and sauté while stirring for about 5-10 minutes until the onions are translucent and the other ingredients are just starting to soften. Next add roasted eggplant, raw tomatoes, and cook the assembled dish for about 15-20 minutes.
Add the herbs, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and cook for an addition 5-10 minutes, stirring to combine all the ingredients. It is then ready to serve.
Heat a dash of oil in a heavy frying pan over moderate heat fry the eggplant and half of the garlic until tender. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Add more oil to the pan and fry the zucchini, garlic, thyme, onion, capsicum and remaining ingredients until tender. Combine all the cooked vegetables in the serving bowl. Add the juice and tomatoes and simmer very gently for about 90 minutes. Remove from the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, stir in the basil and serve hot.
Slice the aubergines in half length ways and then into into large square chunks. Peel the peppers and chop coarsely. Score the skin of the tomatoes and then transfer them to a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes, removing them after 30 seconds. When cool remove the skins and cut them into quarters. Brown the aubergine pieces in a hot pan with a little oil 5 mins on each side, until the pieces are soft. Set them aside and fry the courgettes in some more oil for 5 mins, until they are golden on both sides. Fry the peppers, onions and garlic in a similar way. Add the vinegar, tomatoes and sugar. Return the vegetables to the pan with some salt and pepper and cook for 5 mins. Serve after adding the shredded basil.