Ratatouille, like many French dishes that are considered “classics” today, started life as humble peasant food, in this case a simple mix of abundant, in season spring/ summer vegetables. Today, opinions are divided as to how to cook the “perfect” ratatouille, but really, the most important part of this dish is the quality of the produce you are using to make it with.
My preference is always produce that has been grown locally and as free from chemicals as possible, with the exception of tomatoes which I don’t mind being canned, as long as the only thing in the can is the tomatoes themselves.
Purists will say that the original dish didn’t include eggplants, but I quite like the meaty quality they add to the dish so I’ve included them here. Good news is, if you’re not a fan, you can leave them out and still have a delicious dish on your hands.
I’ve paired my ratatouille with delicious lamb persillade, but it’s a truly versatile dish enough so that you can eat it hot, cold, as a side or as a meal on it’s own and it goes perfectly with fish too – so enjoy it your own way and bon appétit!
Ingredients for the Ratatouille:
- 2 eggplant (diced)
- 3 zucchini (diced)
- 1 red onions (sliced)
- 2 red capsicum (diced)
- 5 garlic cloves (grated)
- 1 bunch thyme (chopped)
- 2 tins crushed tomato
- 4 fresh tomatoes (diced)
- 400 ml vegetable stock
Method: Place a deep cooking pot on a high heat with a little bit of olive oil in it. Once heated turn the heat down to medium and ad the sliced onions, grated garlic and chopped thyme. Cook for about 3-4 minutes until the onions have browned, stirring from time to time. Then add the diced capsicum and cook for about five minutes, until the capsicum softens a little. Add the diced zucchini and the diced eggplants and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomato and the vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 25 minutes on a low to medium heat. Add the diced tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes on a low heat and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Ingredients for the persillade:
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
- 1 head of garlic
- 100 g coarse breadcrumbs
Method: Wash, dry and chop the parsley. Peel and grate the garlic then combine it with the parsley and the breadcrumbs. Lay down the lamb cutlets on a board and season well with salt and pepper. Dust the lamb in plain flour, dip it egg wash (egg , milk mix) and coat the cutlet with the persillade mix. Heat up a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil on a medium heat. Place the lamb cutlets in the pan (depending on how many cutlets you have, you may need to do more than one batch, as you don’t want overfill the pan). Cook on each side for about 3 minutes. You’ll see when they are ready to be turned, as the persillade will be golden and crunchy. Turn them and cook for a further 3 minutes. The cooking time may vary depending on how big the cutlets are. An easy way to know is if you slightly cut one of them, the meat should still be pink and juicy. Allow the cutlets to rest for a minute or so then serve with the ratatouille.
Wine Note: A fresh Rosé is perfect to compliment this dish in the warmer months. I recommend a “Chateaux Minuty” cote de Provence, Available from http://www.airoldifinewines.com.au .