Fennel Ratatouille

Winter has been particularly cold this year. Despite the heating being on full, I still find myself desperately wanting soothing and comforting food which can warm your cockles, and nothing beats a good bowl of ratatouille. This French vegetable stew (which comes in many shapes and sizes) is mostly prepared in autumn when vegetables are plentiful and cheap. However, I feel the same could apply to winter. Feel free to play with the recipe and add whatever you have knocking about in the kitchen: carrots, potatoes, celery, turnips and even pulses such as chickpeas all make for wonderful additions.

I found this version with fennel here and I thought it would be a good alternative to the classic recipe. If you are not keen on the liquorice-like flavour of fennel, then leave it out (alongside the dill) and it will be just as amazing. When it comes to the passata, please choose a plain and chunky one, there’s no need to go for the one with basil, garlic or the like and you are never quite sure what it actually contains. Finally, I served this with a nice and soft rye bread I made on the day, but please feel free to have any kind of crusty bread (a good rustic bloomer would be perfect) to complement this heavenly and oh so good dish.

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Ingredients

  • 2 aubergines
  • 2 large red peppers
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1kg courgettes
  • 2 onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 x 400g chopped tinned tomatoes
  • 600ml tomato passata
  • chopped fresh dill (optional)
  • olive oil

Method

  1. Start by prepping the vegetables. Cut the aubergines in approximately 3cm chunks, then set aside. Slice the courgettes in thick rounds and put in a bowl. Remove the stems and the core from the fennel bulbs, then slice roughly and add to the courgettes. Peel, halve and finely slice the onions, then roughly chop the garlic.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, then tumble in the aubergine cubes and fry until golden, turning occasionally. Use a slotted spoon to remove them to a plate lined with kitchen paper, then set aside.
  3. Add some more oil, then fry the peppers for about 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside in a bowl.
  4. Add some more oil and pan fry the courgette rounds and the fennel slices for 3-4 minutes, then remove from the heat and add to the peppers.
  5. Drizzle some more olive oil in the same pan and add the onions over a medium to low heat, gently sweating them for about 10 minutes, until they turn a nice golden brown. Add the garlic and fry for another 3 minutes, then return all of the vegetables to the pan (ensure it is big enough), add the tinned tomatoes, the passata, some seasoning and gently simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes, stirring now and then. Stir in the chopped dill (if using), add some more seasoning (if needed) and serve alongside some crusty bread. Enjoy!

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