It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had never seen ratatouille cooked and served this way until I saw the animated film of the same name. It inspired me to revisit this dish, and I’m glad I did because when it’s not cooked to a mush and the vegetables still have a bit of bite, it has the comfort and flavour of rustic food – even though it’s dressed up a bit. It takes a bit of time to assemble, but it has real wow factor when you bring it to the table; everyone always remarks how beautiful this is. For the prettiest presentation,pick tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes that all have a similar diameter.
Serves 6 to 8
Aubergines 2 narrow, about 680 g (1½ lb total)
Courgettes 2 large, about 450 g (1 lb total)
Beefsteak tomatoes 6
Salted butter 45 g (1½ oz), at room temperature
Extra-virgin olive oil 60 ml (2 fl oz)
Garlic cloves 4
Fresh thyme sprigs 8
Fresh basil leaves 3 tablespoons
Cherry tomatoes 450 g (1 lb)
Fine sea salt
Orzo 450 g (1 lb)
- Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C Fan).
- Trim the aubergines and courgettes and slice off the stem ends of the beefsteak tomatoes. Cut the vegetables into thin slices, about 6 mm (¼ inch) for the aubergines and courgettes, and a bit thicker for the tomatoes. Keep the vegetables separate. If you have a mandolin or V-slicer, use it for the aubergines and courgettes.
- Butter a 23 to 25-cm (9 to 10-inch) round shallow casserole dish or a frying pan with a lid with 15 g (½ oz) of the butter. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Crush the garlic with the flat side of your knife, then peel the garlic (discard the papery skins) and add it to the casserole along with the thyme sprigs and basil leaves. Halve the cherry tomatoes and gently squeeze them over the baking dish to release their juices and seeds into the pan. Reserve the cherry tomatoes for another use (see below). Using your fingertip, poke out the seed clusters from the sliced beefsteak tomatoes and add them to the baking dish. (I use an enameled cast-iron casserole for this dish because it is heavy and distributes the heat so well. You can also use a heavy frying pan, as long as the handles are ovenproof).
- Alternate the tomato, aubergine and courgette slices in the baking dish in rows, filling the dish all the way to the centre. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt.
- Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Cover the casserole and continue baking until the aubergine is a few shades darker, like a strong café latte, and the courgette is an almost translucent, pale and glossy yellowish colour, 20 to 30 minutes more. If your baking dish doesn’t have a lid, place a baking sheet or even a pie tin on top.
- While the ratatouille is baking, bring a large pan of water to a boil over high heat for the orzo. When the water boils, add a tablespoon or so of salt. Stir in the pasta and cook, stirring every 2 minutes to ensure that it does not stick to the bottom, according to the packet directions until al dente, about 8 minutes, depending on the brand.
- To warm the pasta serving bowl, place it in the sink and set a colander inside. Drain the pasta in the colander and return it to the cooking pan, letting the hot pasta water stand in the serving bowl for about 30 seconds to warm it. Empty and dry the serving bowl and add the pasta. Stir in the remaining 30 g (1 oz) of butter.
- To serve, bring the ratatouille to the table in its baking dish. Spoon the orzo into bowls and top each serving with the ratatouille and some of its juices.
R E D U C I N G K I T C H E N W A S T E
I hate to throw anything usable and edible away, and instead think of these odds and ends as a head start on future meals. The squeezed-out cherry tomatoes can be mixed with some diced onion, fresh chilli, coriander, olive oil and lime juice for a quick salsa to put on cooked fish or a cheese omelette, or you can chop and combine them with basil, garlic, salt and chilli flakes for an uncooked sauce to toss with hot pasta and cubes of mozzarella.
Extracted from Downtime by Nadine Levy Redzepi
(Ebury Press, £27)
Photography by Ditte Isager
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Downtime: Deliciousness at Home