This month it was a great honour and pleasure being asked to provide a recipe for The Rocks newsletter – for my hometown of Sydney. Here’s the seasonal summer recipe I shared with their readers. Or checkout the newsletter and other recipes using the produce available at the The Rocks Market here.
One of life’s joys is celebrating seasonal produce. Ratatouille is a celebration of summer. While the traditional Provincial recipe bakes this dish in a casserole, I like to take it easy, and keep the kitchen cool, by making this summer dish stovetop. It’s a great one pot dish.
2 red capsicum
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
Half a glass of red wine (optional)
1 small container of tomato paste (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil
Slice eggplant and lay on a cake cooler over the sink. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt to degorge the bitter juices. After half an hour, turn the eggplant and repeat the process. When the eggplant has released its juices, rinse and drain, then squeeze dry in a clean cloth or paper towel. Cube the eggplant, fry in a pan until golden, remove to one side.
In the meantime, skin the capsicum by scorching over a gas flame, or baking in the oven, until the skin is black. While still hot, seal the whole capsicum in a plastic bag or plastic container. This will release the skin from the flesh. When cool, skin and remove seeds, and cut the capsicum into wide strips. This can be completed at anytime up to 2 days before you start making your ratatouille.
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Have a large bowl of ice water at the ready. Core the tomatoes, and score the base with a cross. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for less than a minute, until the skin starts to lift. Immediately refresh the tomatoes in the ice water. When cool, skin the tomatoes, remove seeds and cut into large wedges.
Prepare the garlic cloves, peel and skin, then crush them with some of the sea salt and the back of a large knife. Peel and skin the onion, and julienne (cut into small strips). Heat a large pan on the stove: low to medium temperature. Drizzle the pan with olive oil and sauté the onion. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. When the onion is translucent, add the crushed garlic, and stir. After a short time, add the prepared tomatoes, sliced zucchini, and half the red capsicum with the bay leaf and sprigs of fresh thyme. If you’d like to use the optional red wine then please add at this stage. ‘Stew’ for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water or additional red wine, if and when the mixture becomes dry.
Add the remaining ingredients: the other half of the red capsicum and the prepared eggplant cubes. Cook for a further half an hour or more, slowly and gently, retaining the shape of some of the ingredients. Though it is not traditional, I like to enrich the ratatouille with a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste. Remove the bay leaf. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and/or pepper if required.
Ratatouille can be served as a main course or as a side dish. In a hot Australian summer, it makes a lovely dish at room temperature or can be served hot (or gently reheated). You can serve it with pasta, rice, potatoes or bread. Or, try ratatouille as a side to scramble eggs, or as a ‘dryer’ mix in a filling for an omelette or crepes.
1. Add good quality salted anchovies, (salted not brined) capers and black olives to add more depth of Mediterranean flavours
2. Top with softly boiled or poached egg and black olives to create a (hot or cold) ‘Nicoise’ – sprinkle generously with freshly chopped parsley
3. Layer and bake the evenly sliced vegetables to create the ‘byaldi’ as styled by the celebrity Chef Thomas Keller and popularised in the movie Ratatouille