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Ratatouille

RatatouilleLate summer and early autumn is the perfect time of year to make this classic dish, when the ingredients are at the height of their natural season and full of flavour. It makes a great side dish with any simply cooked meat, poultry or fish, or can be served with crusty bread as a starter; although best served fresh it is also a useful way to deal with an over-supply of any of the ingredients (courgettes are most likely) as it can be frozen. Peperonata, a simpler cousin of ratatouille, is made without aubergines.

Serves 8-10

2 large aubergines, roughly chopped
4 courgettes roughly chopped
2 onions sliced
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 red & 2 yellow peppers, seeded & roughly chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded & chopped
150ml/1/4 pt olive oil
1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
a sprig each of rosemary & thyme
8 basil leaves, torn
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Put the chopped aubergines and courgettes in a colander. Sprinkle them with salt and cover with several plates, as a weight to help extract excess water. Leave to drip over the sink for about an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes.

Rinse the aubergines and courgettes, pat dry with kitchen paper and then tip them into a large bowl with the peppers and add the remaining olive oil. Mix well. Heat a large pan and add the aubergines, courgettes and peppers, turning them to brown lightly in the hot pan – do this in batches if necessary – then tip into the bowl again and set aside.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large heavy-based casserole; add the onions and coriander and fry gently for 6-7 minutes without colouring, then add the browned vegetables, tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Cover and cook very gently for 40-45 minutes, or until the aubergine is thoroughly cooked. Before serving, remove the sprigs of herbs and stir in the torn basil leaves; check seasoning and adjust as necessary. Serve hot, warm or cold.

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