Friday, 3 April 2015

13. Ratatouille Provençale




     Photo: Food 52


Elizabeth David first introduced this classic Provençale ragout of vegetables cooked very slowly in olive oil to the English kitchen in her Book of Mediterranean Food, published in 1950.
     Her recipes for French and Italian dishes were a major influence on post war English cuisine at a time when we scarcely noticed what was on our plate, which, given the lack of ingredients and tasteless cooking of that post war era, was perhaps just as well.  
     I was one of the many young beneficiaries of Elizabeth David’s culinary inspiration, first discovering such delights as olive oil, zucchini, (courgettes); aubergines, (eggplant); globe artichokes. and garlic through her writing, not to mention aromatic herbs like basil, thyme, oregano and rosemary which we now take for granted.
     Spring Lamb and ratatouille is a marriage of flavors made in heaven and is perfect for Easter Sunday – just add roast potatoes!
     Every celebrity chef worth his sea salt has a recipe for this now ubiquitous dish, but I have adapted mine from Elizabeth David’s original 1950 recipe, adding zucchini and basil. 
     I usually double up on my proportions when cooking ratatouille for a Sunday lunch.  It improves with re-heating and is an excellent as a main veggie dish on ‘meatless Monday’ with a fried egg on top or with pasta.

Ingredients: Preparation 15 minutes.
3 tbs olive oil; 1 red onion, finely chopped; 3 cloves garlic crushed; 1 zucchini (courgette), and 1 aubergine, (eggplant), sliced into ¼ inch pieces; 2 mixed colour bell peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped; 1 red chili pepper deseeded and finely chopped; 5 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 large can chopped tomatoes; 1 tsb. Sugar; 1tsp dried, or sprig of fresh, basil; 1 tsp salt.

Method:  Cook 30 minutes.
1. Heat the oil in heavy pan and sauté the onions/garlic until translucent.   
2. Add zucchini, aubergine, bell peppers and sauté for another 10 minutes. 3. Transfer to a covered pot and add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and spices.  
4. Cook on low heat, for 30 minutes and an additional 10 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally until most of the olive oil has been absorbed.  If you prefer more tomato flavour, add slugs of tomato puree to taste. 

The health benefits of tomatoes

Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A and C and folic acid. They contain many beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene and lutein. There is strong epidemiological support for increased consumption of tomatoes and lower incidence of prostate and colorectal cancers, thanks to their lycopene and beta-carotene content..

"Food for thought: To care for oneself by drinking excellent wine and by eating excellent dishes - that is the proper medication.
M Chatillon-Plessis
La Vie a table, 1894