Ratatouille #3


2 medium-sized aubergines (total weight approx. 1 1/2 lb (700g)
2 large ripe or tinned tomatoes
4 courgettes
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 green peppers, finely chopped
1 fresh chilli pepper, finely chopped (optional)
7 oz (200 g) small new potatoes, scrubbed or peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
3 1/2 fl oz (100 ml) olive oil
salt and pepper

serve with:

a selection of French goat's cheeses


1. Peel the aubergines, cut the flesh into small cubes and place these in a large bowl; sprinkle them with salt, stir well and leave to stand for 1 hour. Peel the tomatoes, remove their seeds and chop the flesh coarsely.

2. Trim, wash and dry the courgettes, cut them lengthwise in quarters and then cut these long pieces into 1 1/4 in (3 cm) lengths. Heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a very large, fairly deep non-stick frying pan and fry the courgettes with 1 crushed garlic clove for 2 - 3 minutes, while stirring. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the courgettes are tender but still a little crisp. Set aside.

3. Fry the onion very gently with the chilli pepper in 4 tbsp olive oil for 5 minutes in a very large, heavy-bottomed flameproof casserole dish, stirring frequently. Add the small new potatoes, turn up the heat and fry for 5 minutes, stirring and turning frequently; add the tomato flesh, 9 fl oz (250 ml) hot water, a pinch of oregano, a little salt and some freshly ground pepper. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes by which time the potatoes should be tender. Stir from time to time and add a little more hot water at intervals when needed.

4. While these vegetables are simmering, drain and squeeze the aubergines to eliminate the liquid the salt has drawn out; dry thoroughly on kitchen paper or in a clean cloth.

5. Heat a large non-stick frying pan without any oil in it and when it is very hot, add the aubergines and dry-fry them for 2 - 3 minutes over a high heat, stirring and turning the cubes continuously. This will seal them and prevent them from soaking up too much oil. Transfer them to a bowl, heat 3 tbsp oil in the frying pan and return the aubergines to it with 1 crushed garlic clove.

6. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring and turning. Season with a very little salt and some freshly ground pepper, add 2 tbsp water, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until the aubergines are tender but not at all mushy, then transfer to the casserole dish together with the courgettes and stir over a low heat for about 2 minutes; taste and add more salt or freshly ground pepper if needed.

7. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the parsley and the last garlic clove, finely chopped; the flavours are at their best when ratatouille is served warm, not piping hot. Small, fresh goat's cheeses, served cold or grilled, each sprinkled with a little olive oil and black pepper make a perfect foil.

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