By Andrea Cullen
June 17th 2014
My mum makes a rocking ratatouille and it was often the fail safe go to side-dish to dinners when I was growing up that was inexpensive and healthy. I could never make ratatouille like mum does; I still can’t!
What is ratatouille?
For those ‘not’ in the know?
THIS is ratatouille
and not THIS
Ratatouille is a traditional French vegetable dish that is usually made from tomatoes, garlic, onions, courgettes (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), bell peppers, marjoram, basil, or bay leaf and thyme, or a mix of green herbs like herbes de Provence.
Nothing unhealthy in there I hear you say and you are correct; this is a very healthy vegetable dish and is what most would believe is central to the type of healthy cooking that constitutes a traditional Mediterranean diet.
There is much debate on how to make a traditional ratatouille. One method is to simply sauté all of the vegetables together. Some cooks, including Julia Child, insist on a layering approach, where the aubergine and the courgette are sautéed separately, while the tomatoes, onion, garlic and bell peppers are made into a sauce. The ratatouille is then layered in a casserole – aubergine, courgette, tomato/pepper mixture – then baked in an oven. A third method, favored by Joël Robuchon, is similar to the previous; however, the ingredients are not baked in an oven but rather recombined in a large pot and simmered.
Here is a nice and easy recipe for a traditional ratatouille
My take on ratatouille.
Yet again I am failing to follow a recipe and die-hard cooks will burn me at the stake for even calling this ratatouille. I wanted, however, to make a fast, inexpensive, meal in a pot that is stacked with health. One that even the most inexperienced cook or college student can make with a little time on their hands. The following recipe makes a LOT, so there are plenty of left-overs for freezing; thus making good use of your time.
The following is a quick and handy take on a traditional ratatouille which adds the antioxidant power horse that is the black turtle bean (aka the black bean).
Black turtle beans are very rich in nutrients, especially folate, minerals and fibre. And when we are talking antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients then these little babies really rock in the comparison stakes as these beans are rich in antioxidant anthocyanin flavonoids (delphinidin, petunidin, and malvidin; also hydroxycinnamic acids including ferulic, sinapic, and chlorogenic acid, as well as numerous triterpenoids) as well as anti-inflammatory kaempferol and quercetin.
The following chart is taken from World Healthiest Foods webpage.
It is actually the colour pigments in the skin that hold the antioxidant anthocyanin flavonoids power punch. Black turtle beans are right up there with blueberries in their antioxidant value and as far as bang for your buck goes will feed a large family for at least two meals on the same price as a small punnet of blueberries (if you buy your beans dried and soak them yourself). So adding these little black nutrition bombs to your cooking is a SCORE!)
See here for some interesting lists detailing the antioxidant content of foods http://faculty.missouri.edu/~glaserr/3700s14/Antioxidant_WuJAgFoodChem5240262004.pdf
These black beans often lose some colour in the soaking and cooking process as I discovered; I was starting to wonder were they boot polished red kidney beans!! They can also add some colour to the other foods in the meal so don’t let this put you off.
Packet of dried black turtle beans – soaked overnight for at least 24 hours. If you would rather use canned beans then I would recommend using 2 regular size cans. (Red kidney beans will also work and are even higher in antioxidants).
Decent glug of extra virgin olive oil or 1 to 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
2 red onions – roughly sliced
2 to 3 cloves of garlic – finely chopped or minced through a garlic press
1-inch piece root ginger – peeled and finely chopped
3 large sticks of celery – sliced
Approximately 8 cherry or small tomatoes – halved
2 small courgettes – halved lengthways and cut into chunks
2 carrots – peeled and cut into chunks
1 red bell pepper – cut into strips or chunks
Optional vegetable alternatives or additions – aubergine, fennel, sweet potato, halved baby potatoes
Fresh chicken or beef bone stock or an MSG free organic stock cubes – 1 to 2 cups or sufficient to allow the vegetables to simmer.
1 glass jar or can of peeled tomatoes (preferably BPA free can)
Mixed fresh or dried herbs – I used fresh thyme and fresh parsley and dried oregano as this is what was available to me. The following are suitable choices: marjoram, basil, bay leaf, thyme, or mixed herbs like herbes de Provence.
Paprika or smoked paprika
Sea salt and fresh black pepper
Optional Seaweed – I used Wakame as I wanted to add some detox kick to the dish – chop into strips with a scissors. If you are following a low salt diet wash the seaweed strips before adding. If not you may prefer to leave the salt that is crusted onto the seaweed and factor this in when seasoning later.
1 teaspoon white sugar
- Soak the beans in water overnight and preferably for 24 to 36 hours. Remember to add extra water to allow for the beans to expand. A lot of black tends to come off the beans so you may prefer to refresh the water a few times.
- Rinse the beans and replace with fresh water; bring to the boil for 5 minutes and then simmer for up to 2 hours or until cooked. They will feel soft in between your fingers when cooked. Cooking times vary depending on the age of the beans and you may need to top up the cooking water once or twice. Once cooked through remove from the heat and drain off remaining cooking water.
- Prepare your vegetables; washing, peeling and chopping as necessary.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add your onions, garlic and ginger. Sauté until cooked through.
- Add your remaining vegetables (not the sea-weed); for example the carrots, courgettes, celery, peppers, tomatoes, and stock sufficient to cover the vegetables by half way. Cover with grease-proof paper and the saucepan lid and allow to simmer on a low heat for approximately 10 minutes or until the vegetables are starting to soften.
- Remove the grease-proof paper.
- Add the herbs, paprika, canned / jarred tomatoes, sugar, and the cooked beans to the sautéed vegetables. If you are adding seaweed add it now.
- Allow to simmer for a further 5 to 10 minutes or as short a time as it takes for the ratatouille to appear cooked.
- Season to taste with sea salt and fresh black pepper.
- This may be served with protein on the side such as red meat, poultry, fish or an omelette.
- This makes a large portion and so left-overs may be reheated, eaten cold, used as a cold salad side or to fill baked potatoes OR extra may be frozen for later.
Here is the final product; YUM!
Enjoy and let me know your tweaks as this recipe is highly adaptable!