Traditionally Ratatouille is made on the stove top, with all the ingredients stewed together. However, it's quite a challenge to avoid ending up with mush. And I have a particular aversion to soggy or even under-cooked aubergine. The only way to cook it is in a single layer in a hot oven, wiped with oil. Flip it half way through and remove when brown and crispy.
1 medium-large aubergine/eggplant
1/2 red pepper (capsicum)
1/2 green pepper (capsicum)
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
400g tin tomatoes
handful fresh basil, chopped or torn
1/4 -1/2 tspn brown sugar
salt and black pepper
Haloumi - or feta if not available -
Fresh crusty bread, cous cous, rice or pasta
First prepare the aubergine slices. Normally I don't bother with the salting/draining routine, but for Ratatouille it's more necessary to remove some of those bitter juices. So, slice into thick 2cm rounds. Place in colander, sprinkling each layer with salt. Next slice the courgettes into 2cm rounds, and place in the colander with more salt. Top with a plate that fits and weigh down with something heavy. Leave for as long as you can (tonight Billie was hungry so it was only about 15mins, but up to an hour is good). Place on paper towels to dry and then wipe one side with oil and place the other side on greased oven tray. Bake just the aubergine in hot oven for about 20 mins, turning half way though, or until browned and crispy. Remove and cut in quarters.
Meanwhile, heat 3 T olive oil in heavy-based pot. Saute onion and garlic for 5 mins. Keep heat on medium and add chopped peppers, cook for few mins, then add courgettes and cook a few more minutes. Add tin of tomatoes (chopped, with juices) and stir well. Add sugar (optional) and black pepper and basil. Cook for 10-15 minutes, starting with the lid on but removing after 5 mins. If using cous cous, rice or pasta - cook it now. Otherwise butter fresh bread slices. Add aubergine pieces to stew and gently stir, heating through. Remove portion for baby, then salt to taste.
Just before serving, heat heavy fry pan with 1/2 T oil and when hot add haloumi slices. Cook on medium-high for 5 mins each side, until browned. Important note: Don't cook haloumi in non-stick pan - it will melt and turn into a big blob.
Serve haloumi slices on top of Ratatouille, with a little lemon squeezed over. MUST be eaten immediately. If using feta, just crumble over before serving.