Thursday, 10 May 2012

France - My Mediterranean Ratatouille

Since the 2007 animation film, the Ratatouille dish has become very popular and trendy. Originally, la ratatouille (pronounced in French [ʁatatuj]) is a traditional Provençal stewed vegetables dish and it does NOT have carrots. Today, we often see people making ratatouille in our favorite Drama Series (sometimes with carrots!!) but never the way my Grandma makes it...

See, I am French and I was born in Marseille. I was raised on Ratatouille, and I have olive oil in my blood… So for me, making ratatouille in the “right way” is very important! Hehe :-)

Everytime, I make “la ratatouille”, I have this lovely image in mind : my late great grandma and my late grandpa (her son) sitting together in the tiny living-room of her summer house in Camargue, and cutting the vegetables for “la Ratatouille”. You see, like in all Southern French family, they could not speak to each other without arguing, but Ratatouille-making was “holly”, a peaceful moment. I cherish this memory forever ♥

So here is my recipe:
  • 3 or 4 bell peppers of different colours
  • 1 aubergine per person (eggplant)
  • 1 courgette per person (zucchini)
  • Lots or garlic (I use my garlic press)
  • Herbes de Provence: basil, tyme, rosemary
  • 2 tomatoes per person
  • Tons of Olive oil
You need a deep stewpot. Ratatouille needs to be made ideally ealry afternoon for dinner, or even the day before. To be perfect, it would need to cook at least twice and soak in olive oil in between. This is why you need to cut the veggies in big dices (so it does not get too mushy).

According to my grandma, vegetables have to be cooked in the order above, as some take longer to cook than others. So the order is very important.

First, cut the peppers in big dice and put them in the pot by themselves with lots of olive oil, at medium heat. Let them cook a little then turn to low heat after 5 min.
In the meantime, cut your aubergines in big dice, reserve them on the side. When the peppers are starting to sweat, add the aubergines. You can add them before and leave them on top, the peppers will cook even faster! Add more olive oil, then stir and give it a little shake.

While the aubergines and the peppers are cooking, cut your courgettes in big dice and reserve them on the side. Again you can add them quickly and leave them on top for a moment. Or just wait 5/10 minutes. Add more olive oil, then stir and give it a little shake.

At this point you can add the herbs and the garlic, then stir it all again. You can cover for a few minutes but not too much, otherwise it will get too watery.

Now, my grandma does not really like courgettes because they can make the whole thing too watery, so she does not include them, but I love courgettes: I just make sure I remove the middle part before I cut them in dice.
Let everything cook at low eat for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, cut your tomatoes in big dice.
Then you can add them. It is important not to put the tomatoes too early as they will get too mushy otherwise. If you have time, you can peel their skin off but you don’t have too. Sometimes I even use little cherry tomatoes of different colours and it’s fine too! Stir and give it a little shake.

You don’t need to add more olive oil at this point, just make sure it’s on low heat and stir it regularly.
Let everything cook for about 15 minutes or until you see that all the veggies have changed colour and are started to get softer.

At this point, I will turn the heat off, cover the pot and let it soak in the olive oil for at least 2 hours.

Then I will reheat on low heat for 20 minutes, just before dinner.

You can serve with warm crunchy bread on the side, or rice, or anything you like.


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