Ratatouillle, an all vegetable stew made with aubergines, courgettes and tomatoes, has all the hallmarks of great Mediterranean cooking as it is easy to make, deliciously wholesome and, best of all, very versatile.
It makes perfect bowl food, eaten on its own with a hunk of country bread, or if you’re wanting a more substantial meal, it will complement a wide range of foods such as chicken, fish, meat, eggs, potatoes or pasta.
I have cooked Ratatouille many times and I have always broadly stuck to the original French recipe, finding the flavour of the different vegetables to be a perfectly delicious combination. But, when looking through an old recipe folder this week, I came across a different version by The Times cook, Jill Dupleix. What caught my eye was the addition of parsnips and sweet potatoes, as these are not vegetables that spring to mind when I think of southern France, especially parsnips which I associate with British cooking.
I happened to have all the ingredients to hand, so decided to create my own version using one instead of three parsnips and without any sweet potatoes. I am not a fan of savoury dishes tasting too sweet. The result was surprisingly good as it still tasted close enough to the original French recipe but the parsnip enhanced the flavour in a mellow way.
If you’re a parsnip fan or simply fancy a change from the usual recipe, why not try my new version below. It would be interesting to have your feedback if you do.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
- 1 large onion (I used half a red and half a white one but you can use whichever you prefer)
- 1 large parsnip (peeled and sliced)
- 1 aubergine (halved and sliced)
- 1 red pepper (deseeded, halved and sliced)
- 2 courgettes (sliced )
- 6 skinned tomatoes (click on The best way to peel tomatoes in Tips and Techniques for instructions.) Or use a 400g can of tinned tomatoes instead.
- 2-3 garlic cloves (sliced)
- 1 tspn thyme
- 1 tspn rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tspn crushed pink pepper corns
- 1 litre of vegetable stock. (I add stock instead of plain water as the tomatoes in the UK are too bland.)
- 1 tbspn white or red wine vinegar
- olive oil
- If skinning the tomatoes, prepare as described in The best way to peel tomatoes. Peel, quarter and and set to one side. If using tinned tomatoes, continue onto step 2.
- Slice the rest of the vegetables so that they are similar in size and width as much as possible (around 1 cm.)
- Heat oil in a large pan and add the onion. Fry the slices until they yellow and soften.
- Add garlic, tomatoes and herbs and cook over a moderate heat.
- Add the remaining vegetables, stock, wine vinegar and salt and and bring to the boil.
- Turn the heat down and cook uncovered over a moderate heat for around 30 minutes.
- Add the crushed pink pepper corns and cook for a further 10 minutes or so, until the sauce thickens and the vegetables are soft but still retain their shape. If sauce starts to become too thick, cover the pan until vegetables finish cooking.
When slicing the vegetables you can speed up the process by using a mandoline for the courgettes, aubergine and parsnip.
Keeping the vegetables to a similar size will ensure that they cook at the same speed.
This dish keeps well in the fridge for several days so once cooked you can have it in different ways.
For example on the first day I served it with some leftover roast chicken.
The following day I put the remaining ratatouille in an oven proof dish and gently reheated it in the oven. Once hot, I made two small wells in the centre and cracked two eggs into them. I then returned the dish back in the oven until the eggs were cooked.
If you prefer, you can also boil your eggs separately, and serve sliced on top.