I narrowly avoided eating a McDonalds on the way back from the library last Thursday: it was late and money was tight and the efficient all-in-oneness of a McDonald’s was appealing (make mine a quarter pounder with cheese). However, I had been feeling ill for a week and decided vegetables would be wiser. I stared at the shelves in the Sainsbury’s on Tottenham Court Road for ages before picking up an aubergine, a pack of courgettes, a pack of cherry tomatoes, a red onion, a pepper and a poussin (a small chicken) that was on offer.
I had only cooked ratatouille once before – 2 years previously – following Rowley Leigh’s excellent recipe that was published in The Financial Times to the letter. However, that version is rather time consuming and what’s more, I didn’t have the correct quantities of ingredients. I made this, not really knowing how effective it would be and was very pleased with the result. This is a good time of year to make it as the required vegetables are all in season and are therefore at their cheapest and best quality.
1 aubergine, cut roughly into ½ inch cubes
2 courgettes cut roughly into ½ inch cubes
1 red pepper, cut roughly into ½ inch squares
2 red onions cut roughly into 1 inch chunks (halved first)
1 pack of cherry tomatoes (around 600g)
2 cloves of garlic cut up finely with a pinch of salt
a big handful of fresh basil
1 roast chicken/poussin
bread toasted and rubbed with garlic
How to make:
Heat up a frying pan until very hot and add in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add in the aubergines with a pinch of salt and fry for about 4-5 minutes until their sides are browned.
Don’t worry if the pan dries out because they have absorbed the oil, the main point is to get them cooking and colour them. When they are all a bit browned or even slightly charred all over (not very cooked, just with some colour), remove and put in a heavy, (e.g. cast iron) lidded cooking pot off the heat.
Add in another tablespoon of oil to the frying pan and do the same with the courgette, frying until a bit coloured with a pinch of salt, then the pepper and then the onion. Add all to the heavy cooking pot.
Drizzle over 2 tablespoons more olive oil over all of the vegetables, add in the cherry tomatoes and garlic and 250 ml of water (1 glass). Cook over a low heat so that it is just bubbling either on the stove or in the oven for around 45 minutes or until there is still around 2 inches of liquid in the bottom and the vegetables are soft but not a big mush. If it dries out then add in a bit more water.
When cooked, stir in a big torn up handful of basil, more salt to taste, and a squeeze of lemon juice if desired for a bit of acidity. It is ready to serve – spoon into a bowl and serve with fresh bread or toast rubbed with garlic as I did, and a dollop of mayonnaise if you want.
I roasted a small poussin in in the oven at 180c at the same time as making this – covered the breast with with unsalted butter, salt and pepper and placed in a roasting tin. I turned it upside down to breast side down after 15 minutes of cooking and then back up again at 30 minutes and then removed from oven at 45 minutes. A chicken would also be great, as would nothing at all.