Ratatouille is a Provençale dish which, when made with care, is equal to far more than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately, it is often taken at face value and prepared as an ordinary vegetable casserole, which results in it tasting like, well, a vegetable casserole. Traditionally each vegetable would be sautéed in olive oil until soft and slick, then combined or even painstakingly layered in a baking dish. The following recipe maintains the integrity of the dish without the need for a laborious process.
Serves 3-4 as a main dish or 5-6 as an accompaniment.
½ cup olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2-3 anchovies in olive oil
2 strips of lemon rind
1 red capsicum, seeded
1 yellow capsicum, seeded
1 large eggplant
2 medium zucchini
1 x 400 g tin chopped tomatoes, drained (save the juice for other dishes)
Fresh chopped basil, sprig of thyme or herbes du Provence
- Preheat the oven to 120°C.
- Cut vegetables into large slices roughly 1cm thick.
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based, ovenproof saucepan over low heat. Sauté onion gently for 10 minutes or so, until soft, translucent and sweet.
- Add the garlic, lemon rind and anchovies. Sauté for a few minutes while stirring to break up the anchovies.
- Add the capsicum to the pot, stir well and cook until slightly softened and glossy. At this point, check that there is still plenty of olive oil in the pan; if it is looking a little dry, and another couple of tablespoons. Repeat this process with the zucchini, then the eggplant.
- Finally tip in the tomatoes and break up with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat, season to taste and stir in the herbs (if using).
- Put on the lid and cook in a low oven for at least two hours. Cooking for four or five hours, if you can manage it, makes the dish softer, sweeter and even more delicious.
- If the finished dish has too much liquid for your liking, gently remove and set aside the vegetable pieces, return the pot to the stovetop and gently simmer until juices have reduced and thickened slightly.
- Serve with a round of crusty bread and sprinkle fresh herbs on top.