I can’t say that I have one favourite cuisine. Every single country has amazing dishes to choose from, so I refuse to choose. I also hate accidental rhymes so I’m going to rephrase that. I reserve the right to not make a decision. There we go, I feel so much more comfortable with that.
That being said (the favourite cuisine thing, not the rhyming thing), I do have a favourite style of food and that is what I like to call “Cottage Food”. That’s because I’m not referring to it as peasant food. That’s just rude.
You know what I mean, the sort of food that you can imagine someone making in a little house somewhere with a recipe that has been passed down from generation. Meals such as chilli con carne, shepherd’s pie and fish pie. Comfort food, in a nutshell. Just bloody good stodge.
Fancy cordon bleu cooking has its place but that place is nowhere near my dinner table. Obviously, I have a great respect for the people who are able to put those dishes together but there is a special place in my heart for the type of people who can look into a cupboard and just think: “I’m going to make the crap out of some gravy and mash. This is about to get real up in here.” Or whatever they think. Those people who can take 6 ingredients and feed an entire table of people.
Dishes such as Ratatouille. I adore rustic French cooking. There is a je ne sais quoi (ha! that is so pretentious but I could not miss that opportunity) to that style of cooking. It somehow manages to blend the slow and steady French lifestyle of taking it easy, sipping wine and discussing the plight of the bourgeoisie with the elegance and grace of wandering the streets of Paris with your finely quaffed hair blowing in the breeze as you flick your scarf over your shoulder. It’s so unrepentantly French.
Ratatouille is the epitome of all of the above. With just a few vegetables, herbs and spices you can make a hearty, heart-warming meal. You can perfectly grill a good steak and go high culture or you can tear off chunks of bread, tuck in a stay down here where you belong, with us.
I’m not French, I know some French people but I am not an authority on this dish. I’ve only made it the once and it went bloody well. So I thought I would share my Ratatouille recipe with you as a consequence.
I have to admit, there is more prep work than usual for my recipes in this one but you can make an afternoon of it and then leave it to cook.
I just realised that this is vegan and gluten free. That was not intentional but there you go!
1 Courgette, thinly sliced
1 Aubergine (that’s an eggplant to you Americans) also thinly sliced
4 Salad Tomatoes, see above
1/2 a Red and 1/2 a Yellow Pepper. I’m not even going to type it.
4/5 Spring Onions, you only want the green lower bit and yes, they’re thinly sliced
4 Cloves of Garlic, crushed and peeled (it’s a French dish, what were you expecting?)
Couple of Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
1 Lemon, zested and then… for the love of… thinly sliced
1 Glass of White Wine (I would suggest a sweet one to counter the lemon)
Cracked Black Pepper
Basil (and some fresh for the end)
Teaspoon of Brown Sugar (this is in case it’s a little too sour)
- Preheat the oven to somewhere between 170-200 degrees C
- Lightly fry the courgette and tomatoes with the dried herbs, just to give them a little colour. About 7-8 minutes
- In your baking tray, throw in the aubergine and peppers, wine, more olive oil, pinch of salt, and rosemary. Give them a good mix so that they’re all covered. Then, take the aubergine and peppers out (leaving the oil/wine stuff in the baking tray)
- Spread them out on a tray and grill them until they get a little bit of a char on the edges. Don’t cremate the bloody things, just a bit of burntness (is that a word?)
- Put all of the ingredients except the sugar and fresh basil into the baking tray and give it a good stir (don’t forget about the garlic, spring onions and lemon zest)
- Flatten it out and then lay the lemon slices all over the top
- Cover the baking tray with foil and chuck it in the oven. It takes about 2-3 hours to really stew properly but give it a stir every half hour or so to make sure the top doesn’t burn or dry out
Et voila! A perfect, rustic ratatouille recipe. As I said, you can have this will a nice grilled salmon, a roasted pork chop or just eat it with an entire loaf of bread, like I did…