Ratatouille, which is sometimes known as ratatouille niçoise, is a French vegetable stew rich with olive oil together with herbs and garlic. The word ratatouille is from the Occitan ratatolha and is linked to the French ratatouille and tatouiller, which also means “to stir up”.
What is Ratatouille?
The recipes for a ratatouille differs a lot, but generally, it has tomatoes as a foundation for sautéed garlic, onion, zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, marjoram, fennel, basil, bay leaf, thyme, or some combination of leafy greens common to the region.
There are many dishes out there which is similar to a ratatouille, which includes pisto from Castilian-Manchego, Spain, samfaina from Catalan, Spain, tombet from Majorcan, ciambotta, caponata and peperonata from Italy, briám and tourloú from Greece, şakşuka and türlü from Turkey, ajapsandali from Georgia, lecsó from Hungary and zaalouk from Morocco.
History of Ratatouille
This dish is originally found in the area around Nice and Provence. Initially, the word “ratatouille” meant a mixed stew back in 1778. “Rata” is a mixture of beans and potatoes and mixed vegetables and fatty meat in military slang.
Therefore, this dish originates from the military canteen, a vegetable stew quick and easy to make. The word “ratatouille” first appears in 1877, misspelt, about a meat stew. It is until the 1930s that it becomes related to a ‘ragout of aubergine with tomatoes, courgettes and sweet pepper’.
The Preparation and Types of Ratatouille
There is a significant variation in the preparing methods of the dish ratatouille. The Larousse Gastronomique claims that according to the purists, different vegetables should be cooked separately, then combined and simmered together until they acquire a smooth, creamy consistency.
So, each of them will have their texture and flavour. One can prepare this ratatouille dish traditionally or in a modern way.
Traditionally, a ratatouille cannot be rushed; people usually make a lot of it and enjoy them slowly throughout the days. The authentic preparation of ratatouille is time-consuming as one have to char and skin the peppers, blanch the tomatoes and drain every ingredient well and separately cook them.
The onions, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and courgettes then meet in the water and cook for 20 minutes. Nowadays, people do not spend much time in the kitchen. Therefore ratatouille is usually baked in the oven for 40 minutes. The sauce used in cooking this dish plays a vital role as without the sauce, the meal will be the usual vegetable stew.
Ratatouille is perfect as a side dish, and even perfect as a main dish when there is rice or bread available. Traditionally, people from France accompany these vegetables with a rosé wine from the vineyards of Provence or a bottle of red wine.
Other countries near the Mediterranean also cook ratatouille using the same type of recipe. There are different versions of ratatouille, like the Catalan dish “samfaina” and the Majorcan “Tombet”. In Italian, this dish is called caponata, Lecsó Hungarian in Bulgarian and Romanian ghiveci.
In Greek, it is called briami which the dish include potatoes in the meal. The Croatian and Serbian version is called đuveč, and it contains beans and rice in their recipe. In Turkey, ratatouille is served in a stuffed eggplant known as Imam Bayildi.