Recipe: Ratatouille for a ratty week

Taking a break from the travel diaries to write down a recipe that has been a bit of a lifesaver for me this year.  It tastes like comfort food, it’s full of vegetables, it creates copious leftovers, and it takes maybe ten minutes of preparation time.  Probably less, really.  And because the vegetables are all soft, I can even make it when my wrist is acting up and doesn’t want me to chop things. 

You can serve it with all sorts of things, really.  It goes with bread and hummus (or you can fling some chickpeas in to bake with the rest of the ratatouille), or grilled haloumi (which you can also chop into chunks and throw in to bake for the last ten minutes); with roasted or boiled potatoes and felafel or grilled fish or chicken; it’s great over giant couscous (again, with chickpeas), or stirred through pasta, or even made into a bake with bocconcini and more pasta. 

You can serve it hot, or warm, or at room temperature.  Tonight, I’ll be serving it hot with some little pies from Zaatar – lamb, and haloumi, and spinach.  And probably with some roast potatoes because everything is better with roast potatoes, especially when you are eating super late because it took nearly two hours to get home from work and your husband hasn’t even managed to leave work yet and it’s nearly 9pm…

This is not as fancy as my other ratatouille recipe, but it tastes very nearly as good and takes far less time.  It’s Friday night-worthy, which is really saying something, especially after a fortnight like the one I’ve had, with lots of stress and very little sleep.  (Though one of my scientists did bring me cake to cheer me up, which was possibly the nicest thing anyone has done for me ever.)

Oh, and it doesn’t create a lot of washing up, either.  Just one giant baking dish.  There’s really nothing not to like, unless you are entirely anti-vegetable.

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3 large capsicums, preferably in different colours
2 red onions
2 medium zucchini
1 largeish eggplant
olive oil
lavender salt
black pepper
rosemary
dried mint
400g cherry tomatoes
500ml – 750 ml (whatever size bottle you have) tomato passata
dried basil

(I know these amounts are very vague.  It really is a sprinkle of this and a sprinkle of that, and it is very much to taste.  If you don’t have lavender salt, a pinch of salt with some culinary lavender is good, or skip the lavender and add a little fennel, and rather more rosemary.  It will be fine.)

Now what will you do with it?

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C, and find your biggest roasting tin.  It needs to have sides, because you will be adding passata to it, and you want it to fit the capsicums, onions, zucchini and eggplant not quite in a single layer, but mostly in a single layer if you can.  Not piled up, anyway.

Slice your capsicums into about 1-1.5 centimetre strips, and halve if you think they look too long.  You are aiming for largeish bite-sized chunks, here.  Put in the baking tray.

Peel the onions and cut into 6-8 wedges.  Add them to the tray.

Slice the zucchini thickly – about 1.5 cm – and then do the same with the eggplant, and then chop the slices into cubes.  Don’t be too precise, this is supposed to be easy.  Put these into the tray and stir everything around a bit.

Drizzle with olive oil – probably 2 tablespoons, but what would I know? – and add your seasonings and herbs, and toss.  I use a good big pinch of lavender salt (now there’s a precise measurement!), four or five grinds of pepper, and a good sprinkle of rosemary and mint.  A bit less than a teaspoon of each, probably.

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Roast everything in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until soft and beginning to get a bit of colour.

Halve the cherry tomatoes and add to the tray.  Roast for a further 10 minutes

Pour in the passata, sprinkle in some basil, stir everything again, and roast for a final 10-15 minutes until everything is soft and yummy and the passata has thickened a bit.

Serve!

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Variations

This is vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, and presumably low-GI, since it doesn’t really have any carbohydrates in it.  The onions make it a bit fructosey, but I think it’s not too terrible otherwise.

The quantities are the quantities I used today.  You can alter them.  I sometimes use lots of those long, sweet chillis instead of capsicum, or use more zucchini, or five or six of those little lebanese eggplants, and the amount of tomatoiness varies a lot.  And, as noted above, you can add a (drained) tin of chickpeas, or a block of cubed haloumi with the passata to make a more complete meal at the end.

I’d say this will give you 4-6 servings, depending on what you want to do with it.

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