13 August 2017

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Ratatouille. It's what happens when the tomatoes start ripening. Ratatouille is a ragoût of tomatoes, eggplant (aubergines), zucchini (courgettes), and bell peppers (poivrons) cooked together with onion, garlic, and herbs in olive oil with a little bit of water.

There are many recipes. Some say to pre-cook each vegetable separately with the aromatics and then arrange them in layers before baking them in the oven until they're completely done. At the far end of the spectrum, others say to cook the vegetables all together on top of the stove and then mash them together to make what is basically a paste. I used the yellow "lemon squash" in the photo below instead of green zucchini in yesterday's ratatouille.

Some say that ratatouille is a provençal dish, others say it's niçois. It's probably both. The old printed Larousse Gastronomique that I have (published in 1967) doesn't even include an entry for ratatouille. In the book's entry about the aubergine there are references to dishes that are à la catalane, à la toulousaine, à la languedocienne, à l'italienne, à la portuguaise, and on and on, but not a single mention of any preparation à la niçoise or à la provençale.

The newer Grand Larousse Gastronomique, 2007, which I have as a PDF file, does have a ratatouille article and gives a recipe. Here it is:

ratatouille niçoise
Couper les extrémités de 6 courgettes ; ne pas les peler. Les couper en rondelles. Éplucher 2 oignons et les émincer. Débarrasser 3 poivrons verts de leur pédoncule et de leurs graines ; couper la pulpe en lanières. Peler 6 tomates, les couper en 6 et les épépiner. Éplucher et écraser 3 gousses d'ail. Peler 6 aubergines et les couper en rondelles. Chauffer 6 cuillerées à soupe d'huile d'olive dans une cocotte en fonte ; y faire revenir les aubergines, puis mettre les poivrons, les tomates, les oignons et, enfin, les courgettes et l'ail ; ajouter 1 gros bouquet garni riche en thym ; saler, poivrer et cuire 30 min à petit feu. Ajouter 2 cuillerées à soupe d'huile d'olive fraîche et poursuivre la cuisson plus ou moins longtemps suivant le goût. Retirer le bouquet garni et servir brûlant, ou au contraire très frais.


ratatouille niçoise
Cut the ends off 6 zucchini, unpeeled. Cut into slices. Peel 2 onions and chop them. Remove the stems and seeds from 3 bell peppers and cut the flesh into strips. Peel 6 tomatoes, cut each into 6 pieces and de-seed them. Peel and crush 3 garlic cloves. Peel 6 eggplants and cut them into slices. Heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron casserole; sauté the eggplant slices. Then add the peppers, the tomatoes, the onions and finally the zucchini and the garlic, Add 1 large herb bouquet rich in thyme. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 30 min. Add 2 tablespoons of fresh olive oil and continue cooking for a longer time, to taste. Remove the herb bouquet and serve the ratatouille either very hot or, on the contrary, very cold.


  1. We found one that called for each veg to be sliced, then roasted separately, then mixed.... the flavours were lovely.
    The garlic and onions I pan fried and then mixed it all together with a stock made with a Knorr bouquet garni cube.
    The biggest problem for us is that we can't bottle this version....and most of our "rat" gets bottled for future eating.... we are normally eating fresh when they are all going.

    1. It's interesting to me that you say "bottled" for what we call "canned" — neither is correct, strictly speaking, because the both mean "packed and sealed in 'jars'". But now I know why, in eastern North Carolina, why we bought "bottles" — not "jars" — of, say, pickles, at the supermarket. "Bottles" in this usage must be English (British), maybe northern English, and that's where my ancestors came from. Other Americans always "can" things in "jars" because bottles contain only liquid, not solids.

    2. Ken, my Dad brought back, from one of his buying trips to the States, a wonderful old 30s Sears catalogue... I used to spend hours looking at all the ancient machinery... and ready to assemble barns... and wonderful mid-Thirties clothing.
      But, above all were the kitchen gadgets... sorry, this was serious stuff for a rural American... equipment. I remeber that nthey sold canning equipment... cans, lids, solder and above all... the amazing solderer... where you clamped the can in the machine, with the pre-soldered lid in place on your container of produce.... and lit a burner that directed a flame at the rim. According to the catalogue these were then waterbathed, full immersion, for "times according to the instructions"... there were about three pages of this real canning equipment... but this was followed by Mason jars and Ball jars... some like the ones we use... the same as Kilner jars... others with clampdown lids... all shapes and sizes... and ordinary jam jars.
      Home canning, as far as I know, never arrived in the UK... bottling was the norm... preceeding the Kilner jars there were glass jars with corks... jams were, like France, put in open topped jars and a layer of wax poured on... this was followed by waxed paper disc and a cellophane top tied on and wetted, causing it to shrink and further seal the bottles... meats, paste and especially shrimps... were potted... enough for a meal was put in a shallow glazed earthenware jar and a layer of hot dripping... beef or pork... or in the case of shrimps, hot butter... was poured on top.
      So bottling in Britain meant preserving in a glass or earthenware container... a lot of the recipes for such things are heavy in spices, salt, etc... not to flavour the contents... but to act as a preservative.
      I have always been fascinated by preserving food... which was reinforced when Pauline and I had a freezer, full of produce, die on us.
      That was fine... we had a huge reel of bubble wrap for the inside of the greenhouse... and we wrapped the freezer... the contents were still well frozen. The new freezer was delivered... we left it the 24hrs before switching it on... and unwrapped and began transfering contents... the following morning we saw the puddle... the new freezer was DOA!! At shop prices we'd lost around £250 in food...
      Actually we didn't lose that much... all meat was cooked and eaten... all veg was cooked and bottled or eaten.... but things like home-made icecream were lost. And we couldn't claim on the insurance... not a thing was in any form of retail packaging... not even the meat!!
      But that Sears catalogue was the biz!!
      No longer in our possession, though; it was an original, very good condition copy...
      my Mum sold it at auction for just under £1000... the guide price was £50... someone wanted that!
      Apologies for what seems to be a post within a post!!

    3. If you keep an eye on your freezer, even if it stops running you haven't necessarily lost anything. In 2010, we had a power outage that lasted 4½ days, because of a storm. We immediately moved all the frozen food from our kitchen freezer compartment to the chest freezer downstairs, so that it was completely full. Then we didn't open it again until the power came back on. Everything was fine, still frozen, so we lost nothing. Most freezers have an "autonomy" of at least 24 hours if not many more so can survive power cuts or even breakdowns.

    4. Yes, Ken, it was all still frozen when we unwrapped the old freezer....
      the new freezer wouldn't have had a problem....had it been working.
      it was the twenty-four hours in the new, non-freezer that did the damage!
      Hence the puddle.... we've just renewed our freezer here...
      the first thing I did was see if it froze water!!
      I'll not get caught again!!

  2. We have a very similar recipe here in Greece. No pre-cooking. Thin sliced potato instead of peppers. Parsley, mint , a little basil, always fresh tomatoes. We grate ours. Lots of olive oil, onion and garlic. Hot or cold as you say.

    1. When I lived in Paris way back in the 1970s, one person I knew put in her ratatouille not potatoes but a handful of raw rice, which soaked up some of the liquid as it cooked. That was good too.

  3. Here's another way to make ratatouille — baked in the oven. This one dates back to 2004, the first year we had a vegetable garden here in Saint-Aignan.

  4. If it were not so hot in Florida right now, I would try the oven method.
    But today I will make it on the stove in my big Le Creuset and fill the house with the aroma of good things to come.
    I have never used potatoes, only veggies but what a great idea ! Mine will be served over a bowl of buttered penne tonight..

  5. I made some ratatouille this morning to take to a church lunch. I would have thrown in some rice to soak up some of the juices if I had known. Next time I'll do that. The smell is nice.


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