This famous Provençal vegetable stew is best made in the autumn when the vegetables needed for it are cheap and plentiful. This can be a most attractive dish but not if it ends up mushy. So to avoid this, make sure you don't cut up the vegetables too small (they must retain their individuality), and also make sure you get rid of the excess moisture in the courgettes and aubergines by salting and draining them at the start.
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Begin by wiping the aubergines and cutting them into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices, then cut each slice in half; the courgettes should be wiped as well and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices. Now put the whole lot into a colander, sprinkle generously with salt, press them down with a suitably sized plate and put weights (or other heavy objects) on top of the plate. Let them stand for about 1 hour – the salt will draw out any bitterness along with excess moisture.
Meanwhile chop up the onion roughly, deseed and core the peppers and chop these up too. Skin the tomatoes (plunging them into boiling water for a couple of minutes is the best way to loosen the skins), then quarter them, take out the seeds and roughly chop the flesh.
To cook the ratatouille, gently fry the onions and garlic in the oil in a large saucepan for a good 10 minutes, then add the peppers. Dry the pieces of courgette and aubergine in kitchen paper, then add them to the saucepan. Next add the basil and seasoning of salt and pepper, stir once really well, then simmer very gently, covered, for 30 minutes. After that time add the tomato flesh, taste to check the seasoning and cook for a further 15 minutes with the lid off.
_This recipe is taken from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course and Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookery Course._
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