Easing out of winter: Nourishing Ratatouille

Jada-Virginia Surpin brings one of her favourite recipes to help us transition from warming winter stews to a colourful, flavourful ratatouille bringing a touch mediterranean sunshine to pre-Spring days.

As we move into February, the promise of Spring beckons, approaching nearer every day. In the meantime, we still need to keep warm and make it through February and March’s rainy season. For this reason, I decided to share my favourite winter comfort food to help you power through the last month of Winter. THG comment; Jada-Virginia likes to serve this with rice or pasta. I advocate a lower carb eating style so would recommend making the carb element of your meal no more than 10% of your overall plate. You could also serve with boiled new potatoes dressed with butter (if not dairy-free) or olive oil.

RECIPE

YOU WILL NEED:

  • 1 large aubergine (eggplant) diced
  • 1 large (or 2 small) courgettes (zucchini) diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper plus 1/2 orange bell pepper sliced
  • 1 cup of chickpeas (ready cooked or dried – they will need to be thoroughly soaked and cooked before use) – optional. THG comment: you could use other beans or pulses depending on whether or not you are sensitive to them. Alternatively serve with your choice of cooked fish or chicken (JVS says: “dried pulses always taste better and are less likely than the tinned variety to contain harmful chemicals such as BPA or heavy metals”)
  • 3 whole plum tomatoes (you can use tinned)
  • 100ml of tomato pasatta
  • 1  shallot finely diced or a medium white onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp fresh or 1tsp ea dried herbs of choice (e.g. parsley, oregano, thyme, basil) (JVS says; “adding herbs is important as they are concentrated sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants”)
  • Chilli powder according to taste (1/4 to 1 tsp) (JVS recommends: “I love to add chilli to my food in winter as it gives the illusion of even hotter food- very comforting. Chilli flakes aren’t too hot but you can also go for more of a kick if you can take it”)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

THG recipe cheat:- you can substitute the plum tomatoes, pasatta and herbs for 1 x 400ml tin of tomatoes with herbs.

METHOD:

Overnight Preparation for dried chickpeas

  1. If you are using dried chickpeas you will need to soak them overnight. For this recipe, use ¾ to 1 cup. (THG comment: legumes need to be soaked and well cooked in order to deactivate the lectins they contain. These can cause gut irritation, bloating and other gut issues in those who are sensitive. Tinned legumes may cause problems if they haven’t been soaked and cooked for long enough)
  2. Beans can be cooked (find out more from the BBC Good Food) in a slow cooker (approx 8 hours), a pressure cooker or on the stove top.

Cooking (approx. 35 minutes)

  1. Heat a tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in a pan
  2. Add the diced aubergine, courgette, shallot/onion and peppers to the pan stirring occasionally to prevent them sticking. Cook for 5 mins
  3. Add the garlic to the pan
  4. Brown for only 1 to 2 minutes prevent burning
  5. Add 1/2 cup hot water, enough to cool down the oil and prevent the vegetables from caramelising further
  6. Add the passata (or tinned tomatoes if using) to the vegetables stirring well to combine everything
  7. Stir through the herbs, chilli (if using), salt & pepper, simmer for 20 minutes or until the veg is tender (but not mushy)
  8. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes (only if not using tinned tomatoes)
  9. Serve with a green salad topped with sliced avocado, cooked broccoli, walnuts, olives, diced cucumber, celery or other favourite salad veg. Dress with apple cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, then enjoy!

Cook double quantities for use as a side or quick lunch during the week.

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