Made in Dorset: Ratatouille

IMG_20140921_104138We’re still going strong with homegrown tomatoes, courgettes and aubergines here in Dorset, and with the addition of a solitary, ripe pepper this week (yes, just the one) the whipping up of a ratatouille seems unavoidable.

Now, if Jacques Médecin is to be believed, each of the vegetables should be cooked separately before being combined into the final mélange, and I’m quite taken with the Ligurian tendency to throw in a few toasted pignoli (pine nuts) at the end for added crunch.  I like to sprinkle on a few pitted black olives or a crumbling of fresh goat’s cheese just before serving.

This is a dish that benefits from a bit of sitting around before you indulge.  Let it cool to room temperature and the flavours will marry all the more. Or leave it until tomorrow for the best results.  Serve it cold with a hunk of focaccia, hot with a plateful of beautiful swiss chard gnocchi or as the ideal late summer filling for a vegetarian lasagne.

And what about a wine match?  We’re trying something we’ve never drunk before called Ormeasco – a light, red wine from the Imperia area of Liguria. Virtually impossible to find away from the Riviera, it is also known as Dolcetto in Piedmont, and is widely available outside Italy under this name.  So I would track down a bottle of that if you can.  What do you like to drink with a late summer veggie recipe like this?



IMG_20140927_140312 (1)Ratatouille
Lunch for two or a side dish for four

4 baby aubergines, cut into 1cm discs or 1 large one, sliced and quartered
6 baby or 2 medium-sized courgettes, cut into 1 cm discs
1 red pepper, cut into fine slices
15 small to medium tomatoes or 6 large ones
Extra virgin olive oil (we used a Ligurian oil)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A few drops of balsamic vinegar
A few sprigs of oregano or basil
Toasted pinenuts, black olives, and / or fresh goat’s cheese to garnish

To kick off, cut a cross into the bottom of each tomato, place them into a pan and pour over boiling water.  The skins will soon start to come away from the flesh and as they do, pour off the hot water and cover the tomatoes in cold water so that you can handle them shortly.  Peel off the skins and chop the tomatoes finely. Set aside.

Sauté the thinly-sliced peppers in the olive oil on a low heat until they soften. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Do the same with the aubergines and then the courgettes, setting them aside when they are soft and lightly browned.

In the same pan, lightly sauté the chopped garlic for a minute or two then add the chopped tomato.  Simmer for up to half an hour until the sauce thickens a little.  Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Add the reserved vegetables to the tomato sauce and mix together.

Place this final mixture into a serving dish.  Add chopped basil or oregano and your choice of garnishes.