Friday, September 16

Cheat's Ratatouille

Hi everyone! First and foremost let me apologise to any French readers this post may offend. I once saw someone advise that you have to put Worcestershire Sauce in Bolognese and it made me feel physically ill so I understand the pain of someone bastardising your cultural heritage. My Ratatouille will not be authentic, sadly, but it is quick and easy and a recipe that I wanted to share today so please forgive me. It's originally called a Peasant's Dish so please consider me a peasant that perhaps got lost at sea. In the worst case scenario, we can all agree that this probably isn't 'real' Ratatouille but it is a delicious vegetable dish for cosy autumn nights. With that in mind, let's get to it!

To make my vegetable-based inauthentic side dish, you will need:

You'll also need a good saucepan and an oven proof dish. Let's begin!

Step One - Many French people (I have no receipts for this statement) say that a real Ratatouille needs to have a roasted red pepper base. You can either buy roasted red peppers in a jar, which would be perfect, or at this point you'll need to roast some peppers. I held mine over a naked flame on the hob until they were blackened but you could also pop them in the oven for 30-40 minutes at around 200 degrees. Once your peps are roasted, peel off the skins, chop the flesh and put in a saucepan but don't turn it on. Bin the charred skins I'm afraid.

Step Two - Now is this time to chop the veg that will be placed on the top in a decorative manner. That would be the courgette, aubergine and one onion. Some people also use tomatoes at this point but by all means throw caution to wind and use any veg you can chop into circles. To be authentic and beautiful you should use a mandoline to chop the veg evenly into 3mm slices, but I'm not a real French person so I just chopped them with a knife. Chop off the stems but save the tops and tails of these veg too and pop those bits with the peppers in the saucepan. At this point you can preheat your oven to 150 degrees (you could have done this earlier but there's no point having it on if it takes you forever to chop veg).

Step Three - Now we're going to get on with the sauce. Peel and dice the garlic and roughly chop the second onion before adding to the pan with the veg odds and ends (*I've just now remembered that I also had half a carrot and celery in mine as it needed to be used up, add in whatever you have lying around). Splash with a tablespoon of olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and pepper and a teaspoon of Herbs De Provence. Sauté these on a medium-low heat until they start to get sticky and jammy. At this point, add the tin of chopped tomatoes and a pinch of sugar if they were cheap (cheap toms can taste a bit tinny and sugar rescues the flavour). Simmer this sauce for 10-15 minutes and then check whether it needs any more seasoning.

Step Four - Now is where we introduce some jeopardy guys. You need to blend the sauce in a food processor. If you don't have a food processor, like I don't, you could always use an immersion blender or mix it in very small batches in a blender. We only have a NutriBullet which is not designed for hot food and so I had to do teeny batches so that it didn't explode. Apart from the first whizz where the blender got so hot that the plastic expanded and I couldn't take off the lid, this was relatively painless. Alternatively, just wait for it to cool and do it then.

Step Five - Grab your oven proof dish and spread sauce along the bottom to the depth of about half an inch. You may want to use all the sauce but Google tells me this is inauthentic and I don't want to push my luck. This recipe makes far too much sauce and so you'll need to pop the rest in a freezer bag to use any time you want to feel a bit French.

Step Six - Now is the time to assemble your masterpiece. I found the easiest way to do this was to fan out the veg slices in my hand a few at a time before placing them down into the dish, but let your artistic juices run free at this point.

Step 7 - Once you've finished assembling your masterpiece, drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top and spoon over a few dollops of pesto (*klaxon sound* INAUTHENTIC! *klaxon*).

Step 8 - We are essentially going to try and confit these vegetables now, and so to rescue them from dehydrating irreversibly you'll need to make it a little lid out of baking parchment. Just cut it out to fit the top of your dish and allow a little breathing hole in the top. You can now pop it in the oven for 90 minutes.

That's it! By this point your Ratatouille(-inspired dish) should be all cooked through and glorious. I just served mine with a bit of rice but you could have it with whatever you liked. Coq au Vin perhaps? Brioche? (I'm sorry French people).

Until next time,

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