Ratatouille Provençale

I fell in love with ratatouille when I was an exchange student for a year in the South of France. Ratatouille with noodles, ratatouille in crêpes and, best of all, ratatouille leftovers served up cold with a crust of baguette. When I left, my fabulous host mom Claudine gave me her recipe and I adapted it as the years went by. My brother took the recipe to Cape Town, where he now lives, and makes it for his friends there. One day I got a long-distance phone call from a friend of his who had just polished off a bowl of ratatouille and felt compelled to tell me how much he loved it. Now THAT’s a rave review!

Ratatouille Provençale
From: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 aubergines/eggplants
  • 2 courgettes/zucchini
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • 2-3 pinches Herbes de Provence (if available – if not re-create using basil, rosemary and thyme)
  • 1 pinch oregano
  • Salt/pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Peel eggplants and slice in ½” thick rounds, salt them and place aside to ‘sweat’.
  2. Slice (in rounds) and sauté each of the other vegetables (except tomatoes) individually, adding salt as you go, until golden brown.
  3. Place them on paper towel to absorb excess olive oil.
  4. Rinse eggplant slices under cool water and pat dry.
  5. In large stockpot, sauté minced garlic in 2 tbsp. olive oil until garlic starts to ‘pop’.
  6. Reduce heat to low and add tomatoes, sliced in rounds, cook until soft
  7. Then add other vegetables, creating layers of the various types.
  8. Top with chopped parsley and spices.
  9. Cover and let simmer until eggplant is tender.
  10. Gently stir, mixing the layers, parsley and spices.
  11. Continue to simmer, with the lid off, until most of the excess juice is evaporated. The consistency should be somewhat stewy – perfect for dipping crusty baguette!
Notes
Note: You can vary the types and quantities of the vegetables you use, according to what you like and what is available. I often substitute yellow squash or marrow for the zucchinis, for example. Also okra could work well, but can be slimy. A time-saving alternative is to skip the individual sautéing of each vegetable and just cook them all together in the pot. However I think that sautéing the vegetables beforehand allows them to caramelize a bit and adds to the flavor of the finished dish. Update 20/08/2010: Tonight I tried roasting the vegetables (except the tomatoes) all together in the oven before stewing them, which worked really well and drastically cut down on kitchen time. I chopped them up and tossed them with olive oil and the herbs and roasted them uncovered at 200 C for about ½ hour. When they were soft I added them to the tomatoes (step 7 above) and cooked for another 15 minutes or so. The final result was almost identical to my usual ratatouille – the only negative I can see is having the oven on in summer. Today was not hot but if it were then I wouldn’t try this method.

 

Provençal ratatouille