What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, I was snoozing in the Spanish sun. Today, I’ve listened to the rain and drunk a lot of tea.
I’ve just come back from a long weekend in Malaga, where I joined my gal pals to soak up the sun, a bit of culture – and an awful lot of red wine. Coming back hasn’t been the hangover I was expecting though. A sunny soujourn with three wonderful women was just the tonic I needed. It was my final fling with summer and now I’m ready to embrace autumn which after a few false starts, is actually here.
The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness (cheers, Keats) calls for warm and nourishing comfort food. Richly coloured peppers, courgettes and tomatoes are still in season so it makes perfect sense to make ratatouille, which is delicious at any time of year but particularly pleasing as it starts to get colder. Besides its mellifluous name, what I love most about this Mediterranean dish is its simplicity. Chop some veg, chuck it in a pan and leave it to cook. I hesitate to use the words of Jamie Oliver, a brilliant if slightly annoying man whose recipe I’ve adapted below, but this really is a case of bish, bash, bosh.
Ratatouille is incredibly versatile. Eat it with bread, pasta, rice, couscous, vegetables – or just on its own – and if you want to bulk it up, serve with some chickpeas or lentils on the side.
2 red or white onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 large aubergine
2 large courgettes
3 red or yellow peppers
6 ripe tomatoes
½ a bunch of fresh basil
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 x 400 g tins of plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Peel and cut the onions into wedges, then peel and finely slice the garlic. Trim the aubergines and courgettes, deseed the peppers and chop into 2.5cm chunks. Roughly chop the tomatoes.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large casserole pan or saucepan over a medium heat, add the chopped aubergines, courgettes and peppers (you may need to do this in batches) and fry for around 5 minutes, or until golden and softened, but not cooked through. Spoon the cooked veg into a large bowl.
- To the pan, add the onion, garlic, basil stalks and thyme leaves with another drizzle of oil, if needed. Fry for 10 to 15 minutes, or until softened and golden.
- Return the cooked veg to the pan and stir in the fresh and tinned tomatoes, the balsamic (plus a splash of red wine if you have some going spare) and a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
- Mix well, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Cover the pan and simmer over a low heat for 30 to 35 minutes, or until reduced, sticky and sweet.
- Tear in the basil leaves and adjust the seasoning, if needed.