Now is the perfect time to make this recipe when all the ingredients are coming to their peak. This sounds complicated, but it just needs time. It’s really worth it though because you end up with a delicious, gooey, almost syrupy ratatouille.….you can get on with other stuff too while the different elements are cooking.
……Aubergines, extra virgin olive oil, ripe tomatoes, garlic, dried red chillies, red onions, fresh thyme, red peppers, courgettes and salt and pepper………..2 or 3 hours…..some nice crusty bread……
…….Firstly, slowly read this recipe all the way through………
Ripe Tomatoes – I used 12 medium sized toms and a pack of cherry tomatoes, plus a few little plum tomatoes
4 small red onions
Few sprigs thyme
2 large dried chillies or little pinch chilli flakes
2 bulbs garlic, broken up into their cloves
good amount of extra virgin olive oil
9 aubergines of varying sizes
6 red long romano peppers or other red pepper
Sea salt flakes and freshly milled black pepper
Turn your oven on to preheat. 200 C/400 F/Gas 6
Ok, now get this going first. With the tomatoes, chop up all except the cherry toms and drop into a large roasting tin. Peel and chop the onion and add to the tin with the thyme, dried chillies, garlic cloves, then slosh over some good glugs of olive oil. Don’t be stingy here, but it needs to coat well, but not sloppy.
Season well with salt and pepper, toss together, then bung the tray into top of oven and roast for about an hour or two Just check it every now and then, it should actually turn into a seasoned hot bath of gooey tomatooey, oniony, sweet garlicy oil. So just keep an eye on it and check nothing burns.
Separately we sliced the aubergines thickly and I tossed them with more extra virgin olive oil. Then I placed a large frying pan over a high heat, then added some of the aubergine slices in the bottom in a single layer. You may need to add a trickle more oil to the pan every now and then, and turn backwards and forwards til dark golden, almost blackened but not burnt. Repeat with the rest of the aubergine slices.
I had one large yellow courgette which I roasted, (with a couple other squash (See Sweetcorn Squash and Coconut soup.) covered with foil until really tender. (See also courgette puree recipe.) I also had about 6 other courgettes that I chopped into large chunks. Toss in a roasting tin or dish with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Covered with foil and roasted/baked for about an hour, until really, really tender.
Lay the peppers on a baking tray and roast until really softened and starting to blacken. As soon as they are ready, run a clean tea towel under the tap and wring out, then lay over the peppers until cool enough to handle. This will make them easier to peel. Peel and remove the pips, (it is important to remove them, because they are bitter.) and chop.
Basically, as all these ingredients are cooked, trim and peel as instructed and add to the tray of tomatoes cooking in the oven.
When it’s looks totally gorgeous, hook out the chilli, as that’s done it’s job now. Squeeze the now softened garlic out of their skins and squish back into the tray. Check for seasoning. We just ate it with lots of (Stuarts favourite) bread, a rye bread from Broadway market.
Notes on ingredients…………….
Lots of people I speak to don’t like aubergine and I think that it’s because we’ve all tasted hard/spongey, undercooked aubergine at some point, that has the texture of a wet loofah. Aubergine needs to be cooked really well and then it will just melt in the mouth.
Recipes always used to ask you to salt aubergines before cooking them which usually means, slicing or chopping the aubergines, then layering up in a colander sprinkled with salt to leave for anything from 30 minutes to an hour or two. This lets the aubergine seep out any bitter juices, but I really don’t think you need to salt aubergines now, well at least not the commercially grown one’s we get in the supermarkets as they don’t seem to be bitter, but I’m sure varieties will differ. Would be interesting to know.
Good amount of Extra Virgin Olive oil
This is so worth it. It’s said that with cooking that you don’t need to use quality olive oil, true sometimes, but for me, for this recipe it’s essential. Where I taught cookery courses in Sicily, the Palazzo we worked and stayed in, Villa Ravida makes it’s own award winning olive oil, which we used to cook with. It’s fairly pricey over here, but a treat once in a while. But for this recipe another good extra virgin olive oil really makes a difference.
Please don’t buy those completely tasteless tomatoes from the supermarket. You know the one’s I mean, they are almost icey in texture and are a weird pathetic red in colour. They are the cheapest too.
The garlic is almost at it’s best, right now. Fresh, crisp but just getting a stronger flavour.
Chillies dry really well in the fridge, just keep them loose and if you place them in a brown paper bag, then even better. You could just add a pinch of chilli flakes instead.
These were from Susie’s allotment. Again, as with the garlic, they are still quite fresh (the tops are still green) and crisp in texture, really good flavour but not so strong.
Few sprigs thyme
Yes you could used dried, but be careful it’s quite potent dried.
Red romano peppers
I like these long peppers because they have thinner flesh and are more tasty than most of those Dutch imports we get of red peppers. But those same red peppers will do here too. Use yellow or orange peppers too. I would never suggest green peppers. They are horrid. Can’t bear them.
I had one large yellow one that was given to me, but all green would be fine.
Corn on the cob
Is in abundance now, so if you can get it, (and most supermarkets sell them too now) buy the corn still in it’s husk. Rip off the leaves and pull away the silks. (those silky stringy bits)
Use a large knife to cut off the sweetcorn kernels from top to bottom.
Sea salt flakes
Yes I do find this salt makes a difference. It’s not so harsh. It almost has a sweetness to it too. Careful not to overdo it though.
Freshly milled black pepper
Yes, just that, black peppercorns, that you grind in a pepper grinder or smash to crush under the bottom of a small pan on a board or with the flat side of a really large knife or in a pestle and mortar.
© Annie Nichols 2010