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Ratatouille

Sarah Horrocks
by Sarah Horrocks Published on 31 October 2008
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The choice of vegetables, their freshness, the addition of aromatic herbs, the quality of the olive oil and of course how you cook them are crucial to making tasty ratatouille. Here’s our advice to make dishes of Mediterranean standards.

A taste of the Med

Ratatouille is a fusion of several traditional Mediterranean ingredients: summer vegetables, of course (tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and courgettes), olive oil, black olives, garlic, onion and basil.

Choose your vegetables carefully

The classic recipe combines several vegetables, but you can also add others such as celery. Just make sure you choose very fresh vegetables that have not been frozen and are not at the end of their lives at the back of the fridge. The fresher the vegetable the better it will taste and the more vitamins it will bring you!

Olive oil

Ratatouille is made with olive oil and no other. Olive oil gives ratatouille its inimitable flavour. Don't use cheap, poor quality oil which has been heated at very high temperatures. For ratatouille (and cooking in general), use first cold pressed extra virgin oil. Its method of extraction retains its flavour and nutrional benefits.

Basil

Basil is just as important as oil, but is often replaced with other herbs (oregano, herbes de Provence etc.) which is a shame. There is nothing quite like basil for giving your ratatouille freshness, flavour and aroma. But basil is fragile and very sensitive to heat, so remember only to add it at the end of cooking, maybe even off the heat. This is how it keeps its aroma. The same goes for most aromatic herbs, except thyme.

The art of a good ratatouille

There are 2 ways to make a ratatouille: either cook the ingredients separately or mix them all together. The first technique helps to heighten the flavour and the fragrance of each ingredient, but takes longer and fattier because you have to keep adding oil.

However, you do use a little flavour the quick way.

A few recipes

Traditional summer vegetable ratatouille

Serves 4, count 350g of courgettes, 350g of aubergine, 350g of bell peppers (red and/or green), 750g of tomatoes, 1 big onion, 1 bouquet of basil, 6 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Cut the bell peppers into slices and cook them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the chopped onion. When they are tender, add the tomatoes quartered. Season with salt and pepper. Let them cook at a low heat for 45 minutes. Cut the aubergine and courgettes into round slices. Cook them separately for 15 mins in 2 tablespoons of olive oil each time. The vegetables should be soft.

Add the aubergine and courgettes to the pepper and tomatoes and let it simmer for 10 more minutes. Add the chopped basil, salt and pepper if needed and serve.

Quick summer vegetable ratatouille

Serves 4. 3 courgettes, 2 medium sized aubergines, 1 red bell pepper, 1 big onion, 1 bouquet of basil, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Wash and chop all the vegetables and the onion. Add salt and pepper and place in a microwabeable dish. Heat for 10 mins on the highest heat then mix. Heat again for 10 minutes, and mix. 10 minutes more and your ratatouille is done. Remove the liquid produced by the vegetables, add olive oil and sprinkle with chopped basil.

Sicilian ratatouille

Serves 4. 2 aubergines, 5 tomatoes, 1 big onion, 1 tablespoonful of dried raisins, 1 tablespoonful of capers, 1 tablespoonful of vinegar, 50g black olives, 1 glass of olive oil, salt.

Cut the vegetables and onions into round slices. Cook them separately in the olive oil then mix all.Add the raisins, capers and vinegar and cook for 10 mins. Season and serve.

Pepper ratatouille (Peperonata)

Serves 4. 6 peppers (2 red, 2 green and 2 yellow), 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 can of chopped tomatoes, 1 bouquet of basil, a cube of vegetable stock, salt and pepper.

Cut the peppers and the onion into thin slices. In a big pan, mix the oil, onion, peeled garlic, peppers, the chopped tomatoes and washed basil leaves. Cover and bring to the boil on a high heat. Add the stock cube and a ladleful of water and let it simmer for 20 mins.

Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

by Sarah Horrocks