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Along with "Gratin Dauphinois" , this is among the most abused of French dishes, sometimes being bastardised by the addition of mushrooms, and suchlike - and more often than not being produced as a watery mass.
However, if you follow the instructions given here, you will have a dish full of delight.
The main secret is the sealing of each vegetable separately - so preserving its individual flavour before the final amalgamation.
- Suitable for Vegetarians
- Suitable for Vegans
For 6 generous helpings:
- 1 big Onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 big cloves of Garlic, peeled and chopped
- 110ml/4 fl oz good Olive Oil
- 1 batch of Warm Tomato Coulis (q.v.) or a 400g tin of Chopped Tomatoes and their juices
- 450g/1lb firm Aubergines, topped, then thickly-sliced and put in a colander, sprinkled with a teaspoon of salt and left for an hour to drain
- 450g/1lb firm Courgettes, headed and tailed, then thickly sliced. If they are big, salt them in a similar way to the aubergines.
- 450g/1lb Sweet Peppers, cored and de-seeded, then cut into pieces about 2.5cm/1in square.
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) Herbes de Provence - the best, including green anise & lavender, come from www.gourmetherbs.co.uk (http://www.gourmetherbs.co.uk)
- freshly-ground Black Pepper and a little Salt
- 60g/2oz stoned Black Olives, a little chopped Flat Parsley, or torn fresh Basil (optional garnishes)
Equipment: Big ovenproof casserole with a close-fitting lid.
1. Gently fry the onions and garlic in a little of the olive oil, until they soften. Transfer to the main casserole, leaving as much oil behind as possible.
2. Dry the aubergine pieces with kitchen towel. Fry them – in batches if necessary, until they seal on both sides, adding more oil as it's needed. Transfer to the main casserole, again leaving as much oil behind as possible.
3. Repeat this process, first with the courgettes and then with the peppers – so that each vegetable is individually sealed.
4. Sprinkle with the herbs, and season with a little salt (as you have already added some) and plenty of freshly-ground pepper. Add the tomatoes or the coulis, and mix well together.
5. Cover, then cook in the pre-heated oven – 170°C/325°F/Gas 3 – for 40 minutes. Remove the lid, stir and cook for 10 minutes more, or until a sharp knife cuts through a pepper easily.
6. Check the seasonings, bearing in mind that if you are serving the dish cold, flavours weaken. Mix in the black olives, if using
Serve warm or at room temperature as a starter or as a side vegetable, sprinkled with roughly-chopped flat parsley or a few torn basil leaves. The dish greatly improves if prepared a day or more ahead. Re-heat gently, if serving warm.
Recipe taken from 'Foolproof Entertaining' by Simon Scrutton - available from www.runninghare.gb.com
For variations – See Tumbet; Turkish Ratatouille.