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Ratatouille

Ratatouille (pronounced rah-tah-too-ee) is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice.  Ratatouille is usually served as a side dish, but may also be served as a meal on its own, e.g. as an entree (see the Confit Byaldo vartiation below).  Tomatoes are a key ingredient, with garlic, onions, baby marrow, eggplant, sweet peppers, basil or thyme.  The roughly cut vegetables are pan-fried and then baked, and plated as a stew. There is much debate on how to make a traditional ratatouille. One method is simply to sauté all of the vegetables together. Some cooks, including Julia Child, insist on a layering approach, where the eggplant and the baby marrows are sautéed separately, while the tomatoes, onion, garlic and sweet peppers are made into a sauce. The ratatouille is then layered in a casserole and baked in the oven.

My personal favourite is a variation of the traditional ratatouille called “Confit Byaldi” which was created by French chef Michel Guérard.  It is the ratatouille recipe they used in the Disney Pixar movie Ratatouille (2007).  It is also known as Remy’s Ratatouille (see more about the movie below). The dish consists of a piperade sauce – a combination of tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, garlic and sugar – topped with thin slices of tomato, eggplant, baby marrow and patty pans. The dish is baked for two hours, cooled and refrigerated overnight for the flavours to develop.  It is served as an entree on individual plates.  The vegetables are fanned out accordion-style and it is finished off with a drizzle of vinaigrette.  This dish is labour intensive, but so worth it!

The movie Ratatouille (2007), from the creators of “Cars”, “The Incredibles”  and Finding Nemo (to name a few), the main character is Remy, a provincial rat.  Remy is not ordinary rat though.  Not only is he literate, he has developed a passion for cooking after watching numerous cooking programs on TV.  Remy’s culinary hero is French chef Auguste Gusteau, author of “Anyone Can Cook” and owner of Gusteau’s, a restaurant in Paris with no less than 5 Michelen Stars!   After running for his life from his family home in rural France, Remy ends up in Gusteau’s very busy restaurant kitchen, where he meets Linguini, a clumsy young man hired as a garbage boy, the film’s other main character.  Remy’s passion for cooking and Linguini’s eagerness to learn sets an hilarious and exciting rat race into motion that turns the culinary world of Paris upside down.  This movie is a must see!

olive oil (for brushing)
450 g aubergine, sliced into 0.5 cm thick slices and quartered
15 ml olive oil
2 large onions, sliced
5 ml crushed garlic
500 g baby marrow, sliced in half lengthwise
3 large tomatoes, cubed
5 ml salt
5 ml dried origanum
freshly ground black pepper

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C and line a baking tray with a Wizbake sheet and set it aside.
  2. Transfer the aubergine to the baking tray and brush each slice with oil on both sides with a silicon brush.
  3. Grill for 10 to 15 minutes on each side until just tender.
  4. Transfer the aubergine to a chopping board and set it aside to cool.
  5.  Stir-fry the onion until cooked.
  6. Steam the baby marrow until crisp tender and add it to the onions.
  7. Chop the aubergine into cubes and transfer it to the saucepan.
  8. Add the tomato to the saucepan and stir-fry for a few more minutes.
  9. Add the salt, origanum and garlic with a 5 ml measuring spoon and add it to the saucepan. Add a few grindings of pepper to the saucepan.
  10. Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook on a medium heat for 20 minutes.
  11. Transfer the ratatouille to a serving dish and serve it as a vegetable side dish.
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Ratatouille aka Provencal Vegetable Stew
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Ratatouille aka confit byaldi
Ratatouille aka confit byaldi from the movie Ratatouille

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