Ratatouille is a rustic vegetable stew which has its origins in the South of France - the region of Nice to be precise. It also goes by the name of Ratoutille Nicoise for that reason. This dish can't get any simpler- it literally means to stir together. What does one stir together - vegetables like eggplants, zucchini, bell peppers, courgettes, tomatoes - all slow cooked together till the flavours meld and the juices combine.
This dish is usually cooked on the stove top for upto an hour; but one of my favourite weekday cookbooks - Good Food - 101 Healthy Eats - has a nice recipe which cooks up fast and turns out delicious too. Though this could potentially be a convenient fridge clearing recipe, I would recommend using fresh vegetables as far as possible.
I'm sending this fabulous recipe to this month's edition of Heart of the Matter - Budget Friendly Recipes; this event which is focused on recipes which are heart friendly ("low in saturated fats (lean meats and fish), be low in salt (sodium), and abundant with vegetables or fruit") is hosted by Michelle of the Accidental Scientist. and Ilva of Lucullian Delights. This month's edition is about trying to eat food which is healthy but at the same time doesn't pinch our pockets in the time of recession. What better dish than this ratatouille which has just vegetables and no exotic, expensive ingredients which may make us think twice?
4 large tomatoes
1 large aubergine (bharta baingan), cut into large chunks
4 small courgettes (I used zucchini) , sliced thickly
1 onion, sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp paprika powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
salt to taste
1 tbsp coriander leaves chopped
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, plunge into cold water immediately. Peel, chop and deseed. Make a small cross on the base of each tomato before blanching to enable the skin to come off easily.
3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the aubergines for about 5 minutes, till soft. Remove and keep aside
4. In the same oil, fry the courgettes till golden, adding a little more oil if necessary. Fry the bell peppers, onions, paprika powder and garlic.
5. Add the vinegar and sugar, the tomatoes and coriander as well as the aubergines with some salt, pepper and cumin powder and cook for 10-15 minutes, till the vegetables are cooked but not mushy.
6. Serve warm with soup on the side.