Ravishing ratatouille!

Ratatouille is possibly the most familiar of the relishes that accompany meat dishes or are enjoyed on toasted ciabatta for a light lunch. For many years I have avoided the nightshades (potatoes, aubergines, tomatoes, peppers) as I struggled to contain inflammation in the body, but now that my diet has controlled these levels, I am able to resume my enjoyment of the Mediterranean diet in moderation. Peeling the vegetables/fruits lessens exacerbation of existing inflammation, but if you do not have arthritis or IBS this is not an issue. Every body is different, and a blanket rejection of nightshades would deprive us of their many benefits. The versatility of aubergines in particular has led to the discovery of tasty vegetarian alternatives when meat is off the menu.

This recipe titillates the tastebuds every time, and can be eaten at room temperature on toasted ciabatta or warmed with poached eggs for a hearty breakfast, or simply as a vegetable side dish.

Dice two medium aubergines and place on a baking tray lined with aluminium foil or baking paper for ease of cleaning. Sprinkle lightly with salt and a generous glug of olive oil, mix with hands and spread in one layer. Slice a similar portion of zucchini about 1cm and give the same treatment as the aubergines. Again, slice two red or yellow peppers into squares and place on a baking tray as before, with salt and olive oil. Bake all three at 220 deg Celsius, removing each as they start to brown slightly – ranges from 15 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile,, chop a large brown onion and saute in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add 3 or 4 cloves of chopped garlic and stir for 30 seconds, then add a tin of chopped tomatoes (2 tins if necessary to ensure half tomato and half other ingredients mixture). Simmer while waiting for the aubergine, peppers and zucchini to be ready. As each is ready to remove from the oven, shake them gently into the tomato mix (here’s where the use of baking paper comes into its own) and combine to allow the flavours to meld. Simmer a further 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup fresh basil, a pinch or more of chilli flakes, 1/2 teasp dried oregano (I like more), 1/2 teasp salt, freshly ground black pepper and a splash of olive oil. Stir and allow to cool before eating.

Flavour develops and can be kept for four days in the fridge – not recommended, just eat it! Or freeze if too much for the occasion. An excellent addition to your freezer for instant snacks.

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