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Summer vegetable stew (aka ratatouille)

publication date: Aug 31, 2010
author/source: Fiona Beckett
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This is one of the best times of year to buy really cheap veg - though you'd never know it from the prices some of the supermarkets are still charging. The other day I bought a massive haul from a market stall which included 4 kilos of tomatoes for £2, and 6 peppers and a kilo and a half of courgettes, both for £1.

I used some to make the classic Provençal vegetable stew ratatouille which you can serve with cold meat almost like a chutney, as a veg or on its own with couscous or brown rice. Note: Like most stews it improves if you leave it overnight. In the fridge, of course. You can also freeze it which I did in two person portions.

Serves 8-10

150-175ml olive oil (you do need olive oil for this)
2-3 onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 peppers - red or green - quartered, seeded and sliced
2-3 courgettes, trimmed and thickly sliced
1 aubergine, cut into small cubes
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp dried marjoram, oregano or Herbes de Provence
1 rounded tbsp tomato paste
500g ripe tomatoes, skinned* and roughly chopped (or a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes in which case leave out the tomato paste)
8-10 large basil leaves or a handful of fresh parsley (optional but good)
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar to taste

Heat 3 tbsp of the oil in a lidded casserole or saucepan, add the sliced onion, stir, cover and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally for about 10-15 minutes while you fry the rest of the vegetables.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil over a moderately high heat in a wok or  large frying pan and stir fry the peppers for a couple of minutes until beginning to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add another tablespoon of oil and fry the sliced courgettes for another couple of minutes, turning them every few seconds. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, add 2 more tablespoons of oil and fry the aubergine, stirring it constantly until it starts to brown. Set aside with the peppers and courgettes.

Add the garlic, oregano and paprika to the onions, stir and cook for a minute then stir in the tomato paste. Cook for another minute then add the tomatoes . Bring to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes until they start to break down then add 3 tbsp of water. Add the peppers, courgettes and aubergines to the pan, stir then turn the heat right down and cook for about 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours until the vegetables are soft but still retain their shape.

Cool for 15 minutes then stir in an extra couple of spoonfuls of olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper and a few drops of wine vinegar. Roughly tear the basil leaves or chop the parsley and stir them in. I like this best served at room temperature or cold but it's obviously fine hot too.

* to skin the tomatoes make a small nick in the skin with a sharp knife then put them in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Leave them a minute then drain off the water and cover the tomatoes with cold water. The skins should come away easily.

Just a general tip. It's only worth buying a whole load of veg like this if you think you're going to be able to do something with them. Otherwise you're wasting your money! Here's what I did with the rest of the tomatoes.


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