How to cook the perfect Ratatouille
Cooking time: 75 minutes
Serves four people
A few years ago, I was reading a book about what the great chefs of the world would choose as their ‘last supper’ - that is, the one food they’d crave before they headed to the great kitchen in the sky.
The people interviewed were all culinary masters, people who’d tasted the great and exotic dishes of the earth… and yet, their choices were all surprisingly humble, simple dishes. Dishes associated with peasant cooking, with small, rustic local eateries and grandmother’s kitchens.
One dish that came up time and time again was Ratatouille - that great, French stew of slow cooked vegetables that you can find at every bistro in France, and which every French grandmother can throw together with her eyes shut.
This is a dish that warms the heart, brings back memories of simpler times, and works either as a centrepiece or as an accompaniment to many different meals. It’s a classic, and one which everyone can cook and add their own twist to.
What you’ll need:
- Four garlic cloves
- Two medium red onions
- Three courgettes
- Two ripe aubergines
- Three yellow or red peppers - whichever you prefer
- Six ripe tomatoes
- Half a bunch of basil, fresh
- Some olive oil
- A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
- One tin of plum tomatoes (400g)
- Half a lemon
- A teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
You’ve got to prep all of your vegetables. This is a chunky, hearty mix, so don’t be too precise or slice to finely. Chop the onions into wedges, slice up your garlic, chop your aubergines and courgettes, take all the seeds out of the peppers and chop those up to. Take the leaves off your basil, then chop up the stalks. Take your tinned tomatoes, and break these up a bit, too.
Put two tablespoons of oil into a large casserole dish, and then lightly fry all of your aubergines, courgettes and peppers for about five minutes, until nicely softened. Take them out when golden, and put them into a separate bowl.
Put the onion, garlic and basil stalks into the same casserole dish, and lightly fry for about fifteen minutes. You might need to add a little more oil. Then add your tinned and fresh tomatoes, along with the rest of the vegetables you fried earlier, and give it all a good stir along with some salt and pepper, and your balsamic vinegar.
Mix it all well, and smash the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon so they break down and add themselves to the mix. Cover the pan and simmer for a good half hour, and add the zest of one lemon and the basil leaves. Season if necessary, and serve hot with some crusty bread. Simple, hearty and delicious.
Wine pairing for Roasted Tomato Soup
Any good French restaurant will serve this type of ratatouille day in day out, and as anyone who has eaten in France will tell you, the table wine comes thick and fast with this sort of simple, homely food.
Pairing with ratatouille is reasonably easy - you have all that lovely, soft vegetable flavour, sitting in a slightly acidic tomato and vinegar base. As such, you’ll need a good savoury wine which can stand up to the strong flavours, and which can be enjoyed at length as you slowly enjoy this rustic dish.
For us, the best match for ratatouille is a good Shiraz. French, Argentinian or Australian, this wine is a great match for strong, deep savoury dishes, and has enough body and power to deal with all that herby, vinegary tomato flavour and the umami depth of the soft vegetables. A match made in heaven!
There you have it! A classic recipe for Ratatouille which everyone can cook.
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