The difference between a mediocre ratatouille and an exceptional one is its consistency. When making this classic French dish, it is important to keep the chunks of vegetable (or rather, fruit) intact. Ratatouille doesn’t require as much cooking as some appear to believe, but it does take time to perfect it. Spend your time wisely in the preparation and an exceptional ratatouille will almost certainly follow, boil it or stew it and your guests can expect to receive soggy, limp and unimpressive ingredients – no matter how good they taste.
Despite it being one of my less favoured fruits, the aubergine (eggplant) is managing to barge its way into my diet, onto my blog and into your hearts. My recipe for Baba Ghanoush has succeeded in convincing me that there are ways to enjoy even one’s most detested food. I offer my previous post as a case in point; I thoroughly dislike parsnips, but have found that when added to a soup they work awfully well. Such a revelation can only serve to assist my frugality, since I am now far more willing to prepare ingredients that my mouth had never before entertained. One must remember that to be truly seasonal, it is necessary to embrace all avenues of food.
As you probably know, almost all of the recipes that feature on this blog are my own. However, I often partake in a little research in order to ascertain the best method by which to make each dish. Though our methods don’t match exactly, Julia Child’s book ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ provided good advice that I simply had to mention it. Julia’s book appears to be such a good reference for French cooking – I admire its authenticity. However, as a result of it being a genuine French cook book everything requires butter – an addition I don’t always agree with. Still, if you are a fan of excessive decadence in French cooking, this is a purchase to be made.
• 2 courgettes, 1cm slices
• 1 aubergine, 1cm thick chunks
• 1 green pepper, thinly sliced
• 1 onion, thinly sliced
• 5 chestnut mushrooms, quartered
• 6 tomatoes, halved
• A handful of chopped parsley
• 2 cloves of garlic
• Olive oil
1. Pop your courgettes and aubergine into a large bowl and coat with salt, leave to stand for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, slowly cook your pepper, onion and garlic in a generous glug of olive oil – don’t let them brown. Fry off the mushrooms to remove any excess water they may contain.
2. Dry off the courgettes and aubergine using paper towels and brown them in a frying pan. Put the onions and pepper in a casserole dish, add half the courgettes and aubergine and all of the mushrooms to the top. Slice the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds and squish so they can be layered. Sprinkle over a little parsley.
3. Layer on the rest of the courgettes and aubergine, followed by a little more parsley. Pop in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes – serve immediately with bread or pasta.
Cost: We got the vegetables at an incredibly reasonable price, but even if you don’t find them reduced they aren’t particularly expensive. This dish can be enjoyed as a meal, or as a side for as little as £3.60!