Ratatouille is such a great dish and is the perfect way of using lots of vegetables up. It is really healthy and 100% vegetarian, if you really like meat though there is no reason why you couldn't throw a little in there, its basically a stew after all. This recipe takes ratatouille to the next level and is sure to impress your friends and family when you place it in front of them. Go the extra mile and try the galette style courgette (zucchini) on the top. You can really get inventive with the plating up here.
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Step 1: Ingredients
For the sauce
- 1 finely slice red onion
- 1/2 finely diced red pepper
- 1 slice chilli including seeds
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 250ml red wine
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tin of hot water - fill the tomato tin
- 1 vegetable stock cube a few grinds of black pepper - no need for salt unless you want to add it, the stock cube will season the sauce slightly
For the potato bed
- 250g new potatoes - skins left on
- Knob of butter
- Half a lemon squeezed
- Handful of roughly chopped flat leaf parsley seasoning
- Salt for the seasoning the water when boiling
For the top half a courguette
- Zucchini finely sliced, you could use a knife or even better a mandolin
- 2 slices of 1cm thickness aubergine
- Plus Melted butter - for cooking aubergine and the courgette/ aubergine
Step 2: Start the Sauce
This sauce is very forgiving and you will definitely have lots of leftovers which is fantastic for lunch the next day, toss a little pasta in it and your laughing!
If you take one thing from this recipe, take this sauce, it is so versatile and definitely worth keeping as a staple sauce whenever you want a quick lunch or dinner. I always keep the basic ingredients for this in the kitchen and most people will almost certainly at least have a tin of chopped tomatoes hiding at the back of their cupboards somewhere.
Start by putting 3 Tbsp's of olive oil in a large pan on a medium heat, add the finely diced red onion, you could also use shallots or white onions, what ever you have. Cook these for a couple of minutes occasionally moving them around. You want to just start to soften them not brown them. Next, add the finely diced red pepper and cook that down slowly in the same way, all the time don't let the onions brown. You want to keep the pepper firm, add the chopped up chilli next, leave the seeds in if you want it more spice and remove them if you don't. Cook the chilli until just soft, then add the minced garlic, you don't want to let this go brown or burn it otherwise it will be bitter - we don't want bitter.
When the garlic is fully mixed into the other ingredients, it will cook fast when minced add the tomato puree and cook it out a little.
Step 3: Saucy Liquids
Once the bulk of the sauce is cooked down and the tomato puree is completely mixed in and cooked out, it is time to add the wet ingredients.
Start with the wine, use a red wine of your choice, I always go with something full bodied but it really doesn't matter so much. Add the wine and stir everything together, allow the wine to cook down by half, you will know when it is ready because pulling the spatula through the sauce you will see the bottom of the pan and the sauce will slowly spread back out.
Next, add the chopped tomatoes, using the same can/ tin fill it with water from the kettle in equal measures to the chopped tomatoes and add that to the pan.
Tip - use a cloth to hold the can, it will be very hot and you do not want to burn yourself or even worse drop scalding water on yourself because the can/ tin is too hot. Please be careful - burning yourself is one way to ruin dinner.
Add a stock cube to the sauce, vegetable was used here to keep the dish vegetarian but you can use chicken or beef if you are not veggie. Stir everything together and let reduce - stir occasionally so it doesn't stick to the bottom.
Step 4: The Only Way to Boil Potatoes
When boiling potatoes, the best results come when you start them from cold - as the water comes up to the boil the potatoes cook all the way through, putting them into boiling water only cooks the outside and that is no good.
Fill a pan with cold water from the tap and season the water with a good amount of salt.
Add the new potatoes, pop a tight fitting lid on top and bring to boil. Keep checking the potatoes throughout by poking in a knife, when they fall off the knife, they are ready.
Step 5: Now for the Fancy Bit
So most of this recipe is very humble, a great sauce and some spuds but what makes it special is the presentation of the other other ingredients and the presentation. Here we will make a galette style courgette galette style ring to top the dish.
This may seem like a fuss but the results will impress your guests.
Brush melted butter on a metal baking tray and place a metal ring on the tray.
Tip - you don't have to use a ring but it makes life so much easier.
Place the thinly sliced courgette in an overlapping spiral inside the ring and top them with some melted butter and put them under the grill on a medium heat. keep an eye on them as the butter could burn very quickly but is sure to give you a lovely golden top.
Step 6: Check the Sauce and Aubergine Time
Check your sauce, when it has reduced down take it off the heat and keep warm if you prefer - it should stay hot in the pan for a little while though.
In a clean pan add some melted butter and place the thick slices of aubergine in the pan, they act like a sponge and will suck up the butter so be sparing with the butter otherwise you could end up with mushy aubergines, saying that its not so bad when that mush is butter related.
Check your potatoes and when ready drain the water and return the drained potatoes to the pan.
When the aubergines are brown on one side brush the uncooked side with butter and turn the aubergine to finish on the other side.
Step 7: Crushed Potatoes Couldn't Be Simpler
Chop up some fresh flat leaf parsley, you could also use dried but fresh is much better.
Throw a generous knob of butter into the pan with the potatoes (about 2 Tbsp) and squeeze in half a lemon, with a potato masher, crush the potatoes, don't go to crazy, you want to see some lumps of potato in there as well as some well mashed bits.
Stir in the chopped parsley and set to one side for plating up.
Step 8: Last of the Cooking
Remove the aubergine and the courgettes from the stove and grill when they are both cooked. You will want to drain the aubergine in a little kitchen paper, they are like sponges and you don't want them to be greasy when you serve up.
These two will be the fastest to go cold so you will want to work quickly when they are ready.
Step 9: Plating Up
At this point you could use your imagination and plate up however you like or do it this way.
Place a metal ring on you plate and squash your crushed potato in there creating a compressed circle of potato, put the back of the spoon on the top of the potato and slowly pull up the ring to release the potato.
Place a disc of pan fried aubergine on top of the potato and then top with the courgette galette, spoon the sauce around the potatoes and you are done!