(I would put Raymond Blanc on my list of famous people I would invite to dinner if I could choose from anyone living or dead. I reckon he would get on well with some of the other guests (yet to be revealed) as he's such a sweetie pie. Mind you, I would be nervous about my cooking skills so maybe I would invite him to get here early in time to cook dinner..............!!)
This recipe is my interpretation of Raymond's version of the classic dish. I usually make it from what I have in the fridge (or growing in the veg plot) and only include an aubergine if plan to make it and happen to be going to the shops. Also, Raymond uses 4 large tomatoes but I often use a tin of whole cherry tomatoes instead.
It's quick, easy and delicious, goes perfectly with barbecue food, sausages, chops, roast salmon or cod. It's also excellent on its own with pasta or new potatoes. The cold leftovers go well with a ham and egg or tuna salad, AND it makes an excellent base for home made soup (see here). The recipe is easy to size up to feed a crowd.
In fact the very first time I had ratatouille was in the 1980's without realising what it was. I had gone to join some friends on their camping holiday in Italy. They were both teachers and at the start of the six week school holidays they took their caravan to Tuscany where they camped on a beautiful site just outside Siena and stayed until it was time to come home and go back to work in September. In my job I only had two weeks to take during the summer and they invited me to join them. I got a flight to Rimini then an overnight train to Bologna where they picked me up at the station. Quite an adventure for someone who had never been to anywhere warmer than Cornwall!
The camp site was wonderful, situated on a hillside in dappled shade with a fabulous swimming pool. The view over the Tuscan hills was amazing. On that first evening my friends cooked what they called "pasta with vegetables", outdoors where their camp kitchen was set up, and it was, essentially, ratatouille, served simply with a bowl of pasta. It was so delicious that we had it several times that holiday and I made it myself regularly at home afterwards, long before I discovered it was a version of the famous Provence dish.
1 aubergine (optional)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 courgettes, 1 yellow, 1 green
1 red pepper, seeds removed
1 tin cherry tomatoes in juice or two large tomatoes
1 tsp herbes de Provence
A few mushrooms
1 tblsp olive oil
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft but not browned.
Wash, trim and roughly chop all the other veg and add to the pan. Add the tin of tomatoes and about half a tin of water. Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper.
Cover and cook over medium heat for 6-8 minutes until all the veg are just tender.
Makes four generous servings or more as a side dish.