This week I am

making ratatouille. It’s seriously hot, with a malicious northerly blowing. I like to keep busy in hot weather, perhaps a legacy from my dear late mother, who used to say “You might as well do something as sit around feeling hot”.

ratatouille ingredients                                  ratatouille                        finished ratatouille

Ratatouille is summer food, what I make when the tomatoes seem saturated with colour (which means they’ve got good flavour), when the capsicums come in all colours, the eggplant are shiny purple, and the zucchini.plentiful. I’ve made many versions over the years; my current favourite is from Lulu’s Provencal Table by Richard Olney (one of my favourite writers) http://www.amazon.com/Lulus-Provencal-Table-Exuberant…/dp/1580084001

I modify the recipe a bit every time I make it. This is what I did today: sliced two red onions and one brown one finely (about 350g in total) and cooked them very gently in two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, lid on, for about 20 minutes, stirring a few times to make sure they weren’t sticking to the pan. Then I added two finely chopped large cloves of garlic and stirred well. To the pot were added 450g zucchini, quartered lengthways and sliced across into small pieces (about 1.5cm long) and some salt. Stirred well, and added half a sliced orange capsicum. That was allowed to cook while a large eggplant, about 440g, sliced and cut into cubes was cooked in a large pan with extra virgin olive oil. When the cubes were soft, they went in with the other vegetables.

I had peeled and chopped four large roma tomatoes (about 470g). They were tossed for a few minutes in the pan that had cooked the eggplant cubes, and then added to the other vegetables. Finally, I added a large red capsicum, grilled and peeled, then sliced. It could have been two medium-sized capsicums, that would have been fine.

Salt, a bayleaf, a sprig of fresh thyme, and then it all cooked gently for about an hour. I keep the pot covered, but Olney’s instruction is to uncover it so the juices evaporate. I love his instructions: “Displace the vegetables gently, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot with the wooden spoon from time to time.”

I uncover the pot for the last 5 minutes or so, watching so the vegetables don’t catch while the juices reduce to a thick syrup.

It will be served tomorrow night, with a slow-roasted leg of lamb and a green salad.


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