Ratatouille – there’s a reason why a movie was named after this dish, it’s that good! It is also one of my go-to recipes whenever I feel the kids need a veggie boost in their diets after a weekend of too much fast-food and party snacks.
Ratatouille nicoise, as it is properly called, is a traditional French Provencal stewed vegetable dish. There are several ways to prepare it, from the simple to the elaborate. Julia Child’s method involves cooking the aubergine and zucchini separately, making the tomato based sauce with onions, garlic and capsicums, layering all the elements in a casserole, and then finally baking it.
But how many of us really have the time for that?!
Enter my Speedy Ratatouille! Although it has none of the elaboration of French chefs, it is still nutrient-rich and delicious. It is sweet, fragrant and has a great mix of textures. My younger boy, who tends to be quite picky about his vegetables, gobbles up everything whenever I serve this dish. Here’s the recipe:
(For a family of 2 adults and 2 kids)
1 large white onion
2 capsicums of different colours1 medium zucchini
1 small to medium aubergine
1 medium wedge of pumpkin
4 to 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 bunch of bouquet garni
1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil
1. If your kid doesn’t eat “anything green”, then use red and yellow capsicums, and yellow zucchini.
2. Bouquet garni is a bunch of herbs tied together with a string. You can get bouquet garni in small boxes at Cold Storage’s herb section.
1. Prepare the aubergine.
If you are particular about the bitterness of aubergine, you may peel it, slice it into round pieces, sprinkle them with a bit of salt and leave them under a weight (see picture) to drain the juice. But I just chop it up and cook with it the rest of the vegetables because I don’t have the time and the pumpkin should be able to counter the bitter taste.
2. Peel and slice the onion.
3. Cut, seed, and dice the tomato.
4. Dice the zucchini but DO NOT peel it.
5. Remove the pith and the seeds of the capsicums, then dice or cut into strips.
6. Remove the skin of the pumpkin and chop into large cubes. If you decided to drain your aubergine, now’s the time to rinse them out and dice them.
7. Heat up the olive oil and garlic in a pot.
8. Once the garlic is slightly browned, add all the vegetables and the bouquet garni into the pot.
Leave the whole thing to cook for 30 minutes, stirring the mix occasionally to ensure they cook evenly and that the vegetables don’t stick to the pot. It is ready to be served when the whole thing turns into a moist stew and you can smell the aromatic sweet smell of the herbs and vegetables in the air.
9. Remove the bouquet garni before you serve the stew. Season to taste.
I like to serve this ratatouille over some rice or pasta, sometimes with an omelette or with fish for added protein. The boys usually eat a large bowl of it for dinner every time I make it. If you doubt your kids will take to ratatouille, why not let them watch the movie first?
Try it and do let me know how you and your kids find this dish.
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