Recognise the rat? Yes, it is probably this rat which made ratatouille famous. And while there is “rat” in the name, this dish is 100% vegetarian. No dodgy (horse) meat in here! I decided to give this a shot after trying it in Nice, the origin of this dish. If a rat can do it, how difficult can it be?
There are quite a few recipes for cooking ratatouille. Some sauté the courgette and aubergine separately from the tomato sauce then simmer them together. Some cook the vegetables separately but bake them with the sauce in a casserole. Some just dump everything together right from the start and simmer away. No one can agree on what is the traditional way to do this dish! I went for the first method and while it was tedious, I found that cooking the vegetables separately did result in a stew where the individual flavours of the vegetables could be tasted distinctly. This is opposed to the uniform flavour from cooking everything together right from the start as how I do it for some tomato-based pasta sauces. The extra effort is definitely worth it!
Ingredients (serves 4)
400g (around 2 medium size) Courgettes a.k.a Zucchini
300g (around 1 large size) Aubergine a.k.a Eggplant/Brinjal
200g (1 average size) Red bell pepper
500g Chopped tomatoes*
1 large Onion
3 cloves of Garlic
2 tsp Herbes de Provence
Salt & Pepper to taste
*I used chopped tomatoes from a can. Some purists are going to kill me for this, but peeling, deseeding and cutting tomatoes is too much for a student without the luxury of time. Laziness is justifiable too! But please do cook the vegetables separately. No shortcuts for this!
Step 1. Cut the courgette, aubergine into cubes, and the red bell pepper into squares (or as square as the contours of the vegetables allow). Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
Step 2. Over high heat, sauté the courgette till it’s tender. A bit of browning is good! Remove from the pan and set aside.
Step 3. The same sauté process for the aubergine. Set aside.
Step 4. Sauté the onion and garlic in the pan for around 1 minute. After which, in goes the red pepper and continue to sauté till the red pepper turns a little soft (around 1 to 2 minutes). At this point, add the chopped tomatoes and herbs and simmer for 15 minutes.
Step 5. Add the courgette and aubergine into the tomato sauce, toss till everything is evenly coated and leave to simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes (I like my vegetables with a bit of a bite so I wouldn’t let it simmer for too long. If you like a softer texture, feel free to simmer for a longer time!)
Step 6. Enjoy it with some pasta, or it can also be served as a side dish (e.g. with pork chop and roast potatoes). It is worth cooking more than required and storing the leftovers in the fridge. This dish gets more flavourful over time! (Not till eternity of course.)
Posted by #chubchunchua