In my last post I shared the recipe of Daube d’agneau provençale which is a succulent lamb stew, delicately simmered in red wine. This week I thought it would be useful to complement it with a side dish also from the South of France. Our family favorite ratatouille! Made famous by the Disney namesake, Ratatouille really is reminiscent of the golden days of late summer harvest. But unlike the Disney movie version my version is a simple, peasant style stew. What better way to beat the winter blues than by basking in the summer sun.
Very often I serve a gratin Dauphinois or some steamed potatoes with lamb stew provençale; and I have to agree that they are both delicious and complement the stew beautifully. But this time I was in the mood for something a bit lighter. The tender vegetables are a perfect foil for the heartiness of the meat.
This family favorite ratatouille recipe combines a variety of Mediterranean vegetables such as eggplants, bell peppers and zucchini and some more conventional ones like tomatoes and onions. Although the base is the same, this recipe has a lot of variations. In fact, it is often handed down within the family and everyone has their own version (which of course is the best one!).
Usually the vegetables are diced in big cubes but the trend now is to dice them into medium-to-small cubes and cook it for a shorter period of time. This way the vegetables are a bit more firm and retain their beautiful color. My mum taught me this recipe, and she learned it from her own mother. So it really is a family favorite!
- 2 to 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions
- 4-5 medium tomatoes about 2 lbs
- 1 medium eggplant
- 2 green bell peppers
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper
- Wash all the vegetables and dice them in medium cubes.
- Blanch the peppers for a few minutes as this will make them easier to digest. Set them aside.
- Then, blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds and take them out. Let them cool down.
- Peel the tomatoes, take the seeds out and chop them roughly to make a “concassée”.
- In a skillet, heat a bit of olive oil and cook the eggplants and zucchini for about 10 to 15 minutes until they become golden. Set them aside on a paper towel.
- Cook the onions until they become translucent and add the tomato concassée. Cook until the moisture evaporates. Then add the thyme, bay leaf and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Use as a Side Dish or Eat on its Own
I love making ratatouille as this is such a versatile and healthy dish! The vegetables are full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber, which of course is a bonus. I often make it in batches that I portion and freeze. I can then use these portions whenever I need a last minute hearty, yet healthy and light meal. A taste of my very own sunshine in the middle of winter.
You can eat it hot as is or as a side dish that complements meat stews, roast chicken and baked fish. However, if you follow a vegetarian diet or aim to have a more plant-based diet, there are many other ways to enjoy ratatouille. Our family favorites include ratatouille on a toasted slice of a good artisan bread with a few shavings of Parmesan, Gruyere or Comte (grilled 2 to 3 minutes under the broiler) – that would be me. Ratatouille topped with a soft boiled or sunny-side-up egg – that would be my daughter. Or ratatouille with both egg and cheese – and this would be my son’s version! Leftovers are also delicious and can be used as a cold salad, spread on toasted bruschetta or simply mixed in a steaming bowl of pasta!
I hope this dish brings you as much joy and pleasure as it does to our family. And just like in the movie, it will leave you feeling hungry for more!
Fun fact: The word ratatouille is related to the French ratouiller and tatouiller, expressive forms of the verb touiller, meaning “to stir up”. In French it just means “a coarse stew.”