Friday, 23 November 2012


A very basic one, this. No mustard, no beans, no bells nor any of the whistles you sometimes see. I'm almost embarrassed to write it down.

Serves 2, with some left over.

A medium-sized aubergine
Three courgettes
One red pepper, one yellow
A small onion
Four cloves of garlic
A teaspoon of herbes de Provence
A handful of fresh basil
A tin of chopped tomatoes
A tablespoon of tomato purée
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Wash and dry the courgettes, aubergine and peppers. Cut the aubergine and courgettes into large pieces (at least 1"/2½ cms) and layer them in a colander, sprinkling each layer with salt (I sometimes use kitchen towel, too, but I'm never sure whether it works better than without it). Now you want weight on top - I use a side plate topped by by a soup dish with two pestles and mortars in it. The aim is to press some of the moisture out of the vegetables without squashing them (as well as improving the aubergine's flavour), so stand the colander on a plate. Leave it for an hour, then pat all the vegetables dry with kitchen towel. You don't want a soggy ratatouille.
Now heat the olive oil in a large pan, roughly chop the onion and garlic and fry them gently with a sprinkling of herbes de Provence for five or so minutes. Don't brown them. Meanwhile, core and de-seed the peppers, then slice them thickly. Turn up the heat to middling then add the vegetables in batches so as not to cool the pan too much. Finally stir in the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée. Season well, bring to the boil, turn the heat right down, cover and simmer very gently for twenty to thirty minutes, until the vegetables are softening.
Remove the lid. Tear up a few large basil leaves, reserving the smaller ones, and stir those in, then bring the heat up to a good bubble to reduce the liquid, if there's too much. You still want some bite in the courgettes at the end of this.
Now finely shred the remaining basil leaves and stir those in. Check the seasoning and serve with crusty bread.