Ratatouille recipe: a dish from Provence

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Ratatouille recipe

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Address: Provence
Country: France

Ratatouille is a dish more evocative of the Mediterranean shores of France than perhaps any other. It is perfect for a lazy summer lunch and should be served either at room temperature, or, on a particularly fierce day, it can be refrigerated for a few hours and served cold.
Ratatouille, like bouillabaisse and Nicoise salad has devoted adherents to particular recipes and methods of preparation.
Most agree on the basic ingredients - eggplants, courgettes, red and green peppers and onions, but violent disagreement seems to emerge when discussing how they should be cooked.
Authorities appear to recommend that it is more authentic to cook each of the five main protagonists separately and then combine them for a while to get to know each other. Richard Olney certainly favours this method in his writings. Tomato is used as the basis of a sauce that unites the others into an harmonious entity.
Elizabeth David in her publication A Book of Mediterranean Food calls ratatouille ‘a Provencal ragout of vegetables, usually pimentos, onions, tomatoes and aubergines, stewed very slowly in oil'. She also warns that ‘the vegetables should not be fried, but stewed in the oil, so simmer in a covered pan for the first 30 minutes, uncovered for the last 10'.
In their fine book of recipes called Recipes from Provence, Rene Husson and Philippe Galmiche recommend adding some whole olives and some leaves of basil at the end.
A single trip to the fabulous farmers market at Velleron near Avignon in France's Provence region secured us the ingredients we needed.
1kg eggplants
1kg courgettes (zucchini)
1kg onions
.5kg red peppers
.5kg green peppers
1kg tomatoes chopped
5 cloves fresh garlic chopped finely
.5 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 cup chopped basil
.5 tablespoon thyme leaves
Good quality extra virgin olive oil as needed
Chop the onions into small dice. Cube the eggplants, courgettes and slice the peppers into bite size pieces.
Add a few tablespoons of the olive oil to a heavy-based casserole pot (such as a Le Crueset) and add the onions. Stew them slowly until they begin to turn translucent. Add all other ingredients then stew, covered on a low heat for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through and very soft.
Note: We have given the lazy version here. If you want to transform this dish to a higher plane, then cook the onions, courgettes, eggplant and the peppers in separate dishes and then combine them when soft.
Add salt and pepper to taste then heat with the chopped herbs to combine further.
If you want to add an extra little touch to the flavour, remember that Elizabeth David recommends adding some coriander seeds at the end.
Note that if you leave out the courgettes and peppers then the dish is transformed into a Bohemienne. If you add capers and red wine vinegar then you are making a Caponata.
© Sue Dyson and Roger McShane, 2006
This recipe must not be reproduced in print or displayed on another Web site in part or whole without the written permission of the authors.

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