Saturday, 15 November 2008

Low-Carb Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

My Oven-Roasted Ratatouille 
Ratatouille (or Rat-a-Toolie, as my sister calls it) has fallen out of favour a little since its heydey in the Eighties, which is a pity, because this traditional Provençal dish of stewed vegetables is arguably the best combination of non-meaty ingredients ever invented.

The troublesome word, in my opinion, is 'stewed'. I just don't much like stewed veggies, any way you slice them.

A ratatoolie made by sautéeing the ingredients in olive oil and then chucking them into a baking dish - in layers or mixed up, depending on whose gospel you are following - for a long stewing in the oven will taste okay, but doesn't do justice, in my opinion, to the key ingredients of this dish, namely tomatoes, aubergine, courgettes, red peppers, garlic, onions and herbs. I'm all for the mingling of flavours, but I don't want them to mingle to the extent that all you can taste is, well, ratatouille, with a lightly mushy texture, and a top note of seeped veggie water.

Try this method of oven-roasting the ingredients, in batches, before you combine them with a purée of tomatoes. The roasting intensifies the flavour of each vegetable, and prevents a watery result.

This recipe takes little effort, but a lot of time. It also contains quite a lot of olive oil, but it's very low in carbohydrates, making it a brilliant choice of veggie accompaniment for a low-carb diet.

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

First stage:
  • three large onions, peeled and quartered
  • two large, shining brinjals [eggplants], cut into cubes
  • three red peppers [capsicums], sliced
  • ½ cup (125 ml) olive oil
  • salt and freshly milled pepper
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • a few needles of fresh or dried rosemary

Set the oven temperature to its highest setting (mine goes up to 260 °C). Arrange the vegetables in three separate stripes [see left] in a deep metal roasting dish. Trickle the olive oil over the vegetables, rubbing with your fingers to ensure that every piece is glossed with oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Top with a few sprigs of thyme and the rosemary needles. Put the dish into the blazing hot oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are just beginning to blacken on the edges. Now turn the oven down to 180 °C and bake the vegetables for another 15 minutes, or until they are soft.

Second stage:
  • three cups (750 ml) plump, ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 12 courgettes, thickly sliced
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and toss well to combine. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven, and tip in the new raw ingredients. Stir well to combine. 

Put the dish back in the oven and baked for about 25 minutes, or until the cherry tomatoes have just started to collapse and the courgettes are tender. In the meantime, make the tomato sauce.

Third stage:

  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml)
  • 2 fat cloves fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
  • two tins canned Italian tomatoes, and their juice, roughly chopped
  • 4 big, ripe tomatoes, cut into small chunks
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) white sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a sprig of thyme
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the garlic. Fry gently, but don't allow the garlic to brown. Now tip in all the remaining ingredients. Simmer over a very low heat for about 30 minutes. If the sauce seems lumpy, give it a light blitz with a stick blender (but remember to remove the bay leaf and thyme sprig)

Fourth stage:

  • A handful of fresh basil, torn
Remove the vegetables from the oven. Tip the hot tomato sauce over the veggies, add the torn basil leaves, and toss to combine. Adjust seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary, and return to the oven for ten minutes.

Serve hot or, even better, just warm.

Excellent with a crumble of feta cheese, over a tangle of pasta, or warm on bruschetta. Or on its own, with a few rocket leaves.

Serves 4 as main dish, 6-8 as a snack on bruschetta.

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Steve said...

Made this four or five times now, and it's a real winner. A great combination is quickly-seared tuna served on a bed of 'ratatoolie' - Eric Rippert's classic recipe but much, much nicer for for being oven-roasted and not the traditional boiled glop.

(The tuna, of course, is yellowfin from Julie Carter -

Jane-Anne said...

Hi Steve!

Thanks very much for your comment. Brilliant idea to serve the ratatoolie with seared tuna! I haven't yet ordered fish from Julie but having 'met' her on Twitter I am very keen!

All the best