Market to Table

FRENCH VEGGIE CASSEROLE

Ratatouille 4 (2)

DIARY: Market to Table: The Cookbook is a new section for recipes, still serving a Gentleman’s Portion.

RECIPE: A savoury French veggie casserole, ratatouille.

A few week’s ago I realized that I’d posted almost enough recipes on Gentleman’s Portion to warrant a new cookbook. I know the road to publication is fraught with pitfalls and real books seem to be fighting a battle with online publishing. However, as this Christmas season approaches I’ve already browsed through a few real bookstores, both in the UK and in Canada and there seems to be no shortage of new cookbooks. Hard cover tomes with lots of lovely pictures to tempt our appetites. Great thick juicy volumes designed to stimulate our senses and get our taste buds tingling.

Ratatouille 3Unlike my first cookbook How to Eat Well and Stay Single, which had a very simple theme — food that young men could cook at home — so far no new theme has emerged. For now, as I’m calling myself a writer who cooks, I’m not sure it needs a theme, just containing good food I like to write about. Since it comes from my kitchen, the most obvious name that emerged was Nigel’s kitchen, but once the new television series was well under way it seemed a better title would be Market to Table: The Cookbook.

The first entry is an old favourite that takes me back to my earliest days of cooking, before I even wrote about food. It’s one of those frangrant Mediterranean foods that’s made with lashings of olive oil and fresh ripe tomatoes, which one can make in a decent enough quantity to keep half for a meal tomorrow, as it actually improves by being left to cool after cooking and then spending the night in the fridge.

Typically, I’ve made it in the past by layering the veggies with the sauce, but I recently came across a picture of the dish, where the precooked veggies were stood on end. I’m not sure it tasted radically different, but it did look nice in the pan.

So please enjoy this simple version, and save enough to enjoy tomorrow.

RATATOUILLE

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1hr 15mins
  • Print

by Nigel Napier-Andrews

Preparation time: 35 min
Cooking time: 40 min

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant (aubergine) approx 3/4 lb
  • 3 or 4 medium zucchini (courgettes) approx 3/4 lb
  • 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes
  • 3 medium onions
  • 1 large green, red, yellow or orange bell pepper (capsicum)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • small bunch basil
  • small bunch parsley
  • ground black pepper
  • salt
Ratatouille 2

Tasty fresh tomatoes are one of the secrets of a good ratatouille

Instructions

  1. Peel the eggplant and discard the skin and stalk end. Cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, then halve or quarter the pieces so they are all about the same size. Put in a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt.
  2. Wash the zucchini, then slice into 1/2 inch rounds, discarding the ends. Add to the bowl of eggplant and mix together well, cover with a cloth or paper towel and leave it to sit for 30 min. You’ll be amazed at how much moisture is pulled out of the flesh. Drain it off.
  3. Heat some of the oil in the frying pan and brown first the eggplant and then the zucchini on both sides. You may find they absorb a lot of oil, so add more as necessary. When done, remove and lay out on a double thickness of paper towel to drain off excess oil. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
  4. Peel the onions and chop very finely. Remove the seeds and stalk from the pepper (I favour red or orange only because of the colour) and chop roughly into 1/4 inch squares. Fry them together until the onions turn transparent. Mash the garlic cloves and add.
  5. Drop the whole tomatoes into a pan of boiling water and leave for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and dry. With a small, sharp knife cut out the eye and then peel off the skin. It should slide off easily. Cut into chunks, add to the onion and pepper mix and simmer until much of the liquid has steamed off. Sprinkle on the basil and parsley and mix in well. Season with fresh ground black pepper.
  6. Now assemble the casserole in a square sided loaf tin or similar. Make a layer with half the onion and tomato mix. Then prop up eggplant halves, alternating with zucchini until you reach the other end. Drizzle with the remainder of the onion and tomato mix.
  7. Cook in the oven at 350°F/175°C for 40 min.
  8. Serve as a hot veggie appetiser, a veggie main course, as a vegetable accompaniment to simple meats, such as roast beef or lamb, roast whole chicken, grilled chicken breasts or thighs, or as a cold accompaniment to charcuterie.

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