Ratatouille is a great vegetarian stew with full of summery flavours and nutrients. It is quite easy to make and it is also very versatile. It can be served as a main or as a side, or even as filling for sandwiches or savory crepes. Also, the base recipe can be easily adjusted according to different personal preferences. It may even be served hot or cold, according to individual taste.
Ratatouille originates in Nice, in Provence. It is known to be a country dish, created by farmers during the summer season, when fresh vegetables were abundant in this region of France. The name of the dish comes from the French world “touiller”, which means “to stir” or “to toss” in English. The first part of the world “rata” is a French slang word that means something like “chunky stew” in English.
Typically, aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and garlic are included in the traditional recipes of Ratatouille and the dish is spiced with fine herbs. If you like other vegetables like mushrooms, squash and potatoes, you may add them to your own preferred version of Ratatouille. Spicing is also a matter of personal preference. For true French flavours, use “Herbes de Provence”. You may also consider trying marjoram, thyme, basil and parsley.
Some recipes suggest that for the best result, Ratatouille’s ingredients should be cooked separately before combining them. This method is known to preserve the flavours of the individual ingredients better and it avoids a soggy and mushy texture in the stew. This tip is definitely worth trying!
Ratatouille’s taste, versatility and the simplicity of its preparation definitely contributed the global success of this quintessential French dish. Now, let’s try making it based on the below recipe of BBC Food (serves two people as a main course):
- 2 aubergines
- 4 small courgettes
- 2 bell peppers
- 4 large tomatoes
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- ½ tsp sugar
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- “Herbes de Provence” spice mixture
- small bunch basil, roughly torn
- Cut the aubergines into 2.5cm/1in slices. Cut the courgettes into 2.5cm/1in slices. De-seed the peppers and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
- Score a cross in the base of each tomato and place them in a pot. Pour over boiling water to cover and set aside for one minute. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel away the skins. Cut them into quarters, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Chop them up into small pieces. Alternatively, use good quality canned plum tomatoes.
- Place the aubergines and courgettes in a pan and drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper.Fry the aubergine slices in batches for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden-brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside to drain on kitchen towels.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions. Cook over a gentle heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown and very tender. Stir in the peppers, garlic, sugar, some salt and pepper. Add the “Herbes of Provence” spice mixture and half of the basil. Mix the ingredients, cover and cook over a very gentle heat for 20 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the aubergines and the courgettes, mix the ingredients and cook for a further few minutes. Scatter with the remaining basil and serve.