Chunky chicken pieces in the classic Niçoise ratatouille flavoured with tarragon and smoked paprika. I’m hungry now. Are you hungry?
Ratatouille is not fancy food
Everybody knows that ratatouille is not haute cuisine. It doesn’t feature in fine dining menus; it won’t label you a cordon bleu chef if you’ve mastered the skill of chopping courgettes and tomatoes. It’s a bit common, a bit lower echelons of the table, a bit ‘bof’ as the French would succinctly put it.
How to cook ratatouille?
Do what you will in terms of the technique, it will still be a dish of stewed vegetables. However fancy they should be arranged: in layers or fanned out, alternating tomatoes and courgettes picturesquely, the end result will be the same.
You can cook every vegetable separately and then blend them together; or you can bung them into the pot one by one, roughly in the order of cooking times. I’ve tried both and more, and again – what you get is a ratatouille.
It's a Provençal classic
And that’s perfectly fine – the good folks of Provence make the most of what they have in plenty, democratically combining their popular veg. If we were to make our equivalent in Britain, it would be a mix of turnips, cabbage and potatoes: a hearty, albeit not hugely appealing chow. Locality reigns over cuisine – some get pain bagnat and others a chip butty.
I never look down on ratatouille (but then I wouldn’t, not being French and only encountering aubergines in my late teens) and always make an enormous pot of it, regardless of which method I employ. The nice thing about it is that it can very well be noshed at room temperature, so I aim at plenty of leftovers.
Ratatouille with a chicken twist
I’m happy to consume ratatouille for my main meal, accompanied just with crusty bread to mop up the sauce. But good news for people who look for bacon in their scrambled eggs is that you can easily meatify it with chunks of chicken. I’m sure it’s not very Provencal or even French in spirit but as a new easy and versatile resource you can’t whack it.