|Ratatouille with Tomato Chipotle sauce.|
From: Iain Noble
Place all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to simmering point while mashing the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon. Simmer gently covered for 30 minutes. If at the end of this time the sauce is too thin reduce by boiling with lid off. Add salt to taste.
NB This sauce should not be extra hot, rather it should have a predominately tomato taste with an undercurrent of smoky heat. Don't overdo the salt at the end. You can also use this sauce for thin pastas like spaghetti, in which case add a medium onion, skinned and halved, at the beginning, remove it before serving and add chopped fresh basil to the sauce 5 minutes before serving.
There are two essential things for good ratatouille: firstly, use the freshest, best quality produce you can get. Using tired vegetables past their peak or (even worse) tinned or frozen will give you vegetable stew; secondly, *cook each of the constitutent parts separately* only combining them for a brief simmer immediately before serving. It takes slightly longer this way but the effort is well worth it.
The thickness of the slicing and the cooking time will vary according to your taste. It can range from thin slicing and cooking slowly till soft to thick slicing and brief stir-frying on a fierce heat. Experiment but go for the middle range (c 1/4 inch slices and cooking unti al dente) first and see how you like that.
Take aubergine slices and layer in a colander cut sides up, sprinkle with salt. Add extra layers as necessary. Don't worry too much about the salt you use as you will wash most of it off later. Leave for c 30 minutes, rinse off salt and juices that have come out of the aubergine. Shake off excess water and leave to dry for c. 30 minutes. This process softens the aubergines and reduces any potential bitterness. I'm told that fresh picked aubergines do not need this but I don't grow them so I've never been able to test this out.
Heat 4-6 tablespoons olive oil in frying pan. Fry onions and garlic gently until golden and soft, remove from pan with slotted spoon and place in large bowl. Check oil level and add more if necessary and bring back to heat. Fry peppers rather more vigorously stirring often until al dente, remove peppers with slotted spoon to same bowl as onions, pour back any oil from bowl into frying pan, add oil as necessary to pan and return to heat, fry courgette slices until browned both sides, remove to bowl as before. Check oil (aubergines absorb a lot of oil while frying and adding oil while they are frying can make them soggy) and fry aubergines until browned and soft. Remove to bowl when done.
Bring tomato sauce back to boil and add fried vegetables to it and stir in. Add chopped fresh herbs (basil most of all, a little thyme and rosemary) simmer for 5 minutes or so until heated through. Check for seasoning and add a little salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste, a little lemon juice will lift the flavour.
Serve either as a main course with plain boiled r
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