I’m back! (I can hear the collected sigh of relief…) France was lovely! Ok, so the weather wasn’t all that, but it hardly rained and when it did it was very light and brief. And it was lovely and warm with occasional lovely sunshine. C even started to get freckles, which I guess is just another sign of her growing up. The ferry journey over was a bit choppy (hello, and goodbye again, for the mini pain au chocolat and croissants she ate immediately on boarding) but we had a cabin on the way back and so just slept through that crossing. In France C really enjoyed ‘speaking French’, and we pretty much have the same phrases – bonjour, merci and au revoir pretty much covers it. My stepmum speaks good French so I didn’t need to say too much, and a lot of the people we met spoke English and were happy to do so. I mostly stayed well – just one day when I was properly poorly and I have my suspicions about how that came about. Pushed my luck on what might be safe to eat just one too many times! But mostly people were happy and able to accommodate my dietary requests and we ate out almost every day. I also discovered in a hypermarket sized Intermarché a shelf of foods ‘sans gluten’. I was thrilled to discover many of the brands I know from home were stocked so I had bread, cake, biscuit, pasta and breakfast cereal. I was also able to buy soya, coconut and almond milk in the same aisle. In case you are wondering, that aisle is the one with the organic and low sugar foods, and I nearly missed it! Luckily my stepmum was on the ball. I could also get soya milk in the local supermarket sized Intermarché which was helpful, but nothing more specialised than that. And of course, we mostly ate meat, fish, cheese, fruit and vegetables in the cottage when cooking for ourselves, which are all naturally gluten-free, so I certainly didn’t starve. And now to the recipe! In honour of my French trip here is ratatouille. I didn’t eat this while there but I returned to a selection of appropriate vegetables and it seemed fitting. I chop my veggies up a bit smaller than one might otherwise because I like to use leftovers as a filling for buckwheat crepes, and it is easier to roll them up if the filling is less chunky. So this time I’ve served it with that traditional French accompaniment, cheesy polenta! I know this is terrible mix of cuisines and only top chefs get away with ‘fusion’ but I think it goes really well. You may, of course, serve yours with whatever you prefer, or as a side dish to a meat, fish or a veggie main course.
Prep time 15 minutes Cook time 35 minutes Makes 2 adult servings
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large tomatoes, peeled and deseeded
- 1 aubergine, chopped into 1″ cubes
- 1 large courgette, chopped into 1″ cubes
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into 1″ pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- pinch of sugar
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- salt and pepper
- small bunch basil, roughly torn
Heat the olive oil in a large pan and soften the diced onion over a low heat for 10 minutes. In the meantime prepare the tomatoes for peeling and deseeding. To do this, score the tomatoes with a cross on the bottom, and place into boiling water for a minute. Drain and put to one side until cool enough to handle, peel, deseed and chop. Into the pan with the onion add the diced aubergine and courgette and cook for a couple of minutes over a medium heat. Now add the pepper, garlic, sugar, tomato puree and half the basil, stir and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and turn down to a very low heat for 20 minutes. Now add the tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in the rest of the torn basil and serve with the accompaniment of your choice, or as a side dish or pancake filling.