Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Sweet potato ratatouille

And I'm back after the Christmas break, having received two wonderful cookbooks which made me desperate to get home and start creating meals again.  And it has been great!

But with Christmas break comes that post-binging guilt, and I find ratatouille is a perfect mix of comfort food while still being healthy. I read something once, complaining about ratatouille - that its very essence is aubergine, so how can you have one without? But sadly for me, I hate aubergine - no amount of pressing or salting or anything can seem to make this vegetarian-staple taste any less revolting and bitter to me. It's a shame as it's also a gorgeous vegetable, and is a lovely shade of purple (I used to dye my hair 'aubergine' when I was 14) but it's just not for me.
No, the main ingredient in this ratatouille is sweet potato. I don't know quite why I avoided the sweet potato for so long, but I did. It is a fabulous vegetable, and especially for these post-Christmas times when you're so hungry after nibbling all day long, but don't want to binge on carbohydrate. It does the job of regular potato, but fills you up nicely while still being a healthy vegetable. The original recipe also calls for butternut squash, but we had sweet potatoes and wanted to use that up. In any case, you can substitute 1/2 a butternut squash for sweet potatoes.

This has a nice amount of veg in it. Just look at that picture. Don't you feel healthier just looking at it? And the best thing about this ratatouille is that it is genuinely delicious. There is no sense of 'eat it up, it's good for you' and that stifled grimace of swallowing down healthy stuff. Right before typing this, me and my boyfriend were picking bits of veg out of the roasting tin to eat cold. It's that tasty. And a little bit of ground rock salt once served pushes it from that over into 'can't stop eating' territory. This recipe is taken largely from Yotam Ottolenghi's marvellous vegetarian cookbook, 'Plenty'.

Sweet potato ratatouille (makes enough for 3)
  • 50ml sunflower oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/2 green chilli 
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  • 100g french beans/fine beans
  • 1/2 a courgette, diced
  • 1/2 a small potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Chopped coriander to garnish (if you have it lying around, or can use it up. It makes a lovely addition to the flavour as well.)
  • Rice to serve
The original recipe insists you have all your veg prepared before you start, but with each chucking of veg into the pan, you have to wait five minutes for it to cook. If you feel confident at chopping, just chop as you go. Otherwise you can be prepared. It's up to you. This takes about 45m on the hob, followed by about 30m in the oven, so do bear in mind.
After adding the water and before leaving to simmer for 30m
Chop your onion and add to a pan on a medium hot heat with 40ml or so of the oil, and fry for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop your chilli and pepper, and slice the garlic, then add to the pan. Give it a good stir, then leave to fry for another 5 minutes. After the time has elapsed, add the parsnip (and if you are using butternut squash here instead of sweet potato, add at the same time.)

In order to make sure everything is cooked properly, five minutes after the parsnip (and squash) go into the pot, you want to carefully lift the veg out with a spatula or slotted spoon and put in a bowl, leaving behind as much oil as possible. Throw in your reserved 20ml of sunflower oil, then put the courgette, sweet potato, and beans into the pot. Let cook for 5 minutes, stirring on a high heat - the sweet potato is lovely if it gets a tiny bit brown round the edges -  then chuck the contents of the bowl on the side into the pot and mix all together. Lovely.

Put the tomato puree and sugar in, mix as throughly as you can, then add about 100ml of water, or however much it takes to come half-way up the side of the veg in the pot. Don't cover it by any means. Put the lid on, turn down the heat and leave it for 30 minutes. 

Bearing in mind you want to put your rice on at some point (I have a rice cooker - well worth getting - so I just stick mine on now and it keeps warm), carefully spoon out the veg from the pot into a roasting tin and then pour any remaining liquid over, although I seldom have any. Season damn well with salt and pepper, then into the oven for another 25-30m.
When you're done, the vegetables will be soft and smell delicious, and there'll be no liquid, and it will taste absolutely amazing. Put coriander on top. Yum yum. Happy January everyone.

Credit where credit is due: Yotam Ottolenghi's 'Plenty'

1 comment:

  1. Made this on Sunday and it was lovely!


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