In our house as well, one cannot simply subsist on vegetables alone. I am fairly sure that was incorporated into our marriage vows, so I needed to provide a suitable red meat accompaniment to the pile of courgette and tomato I was preparing to serve.
Jamie got there long before I did and I have no doubt that thousands more got there before him, but my rat is not the same one as his, although the steak part most definitely is.
It is however quite quick (relatively speaking - you can't get the complex flavours of a good rat with only 30 minutes of cooking, no matter how many tricks and cheats you use) and easy. I cooked it as a mid-week supper for after work and it feels positively virtuous before the onslaught of Christmas decadence. You can also cook the ratatouille a few days in advance and just warm it up when you want dinner - this actually makes it even better as the flavours have time to develop and it will save you even more time when you are stressed after a long day at work.
Now, the purists out there are going to argue with me and tell me that this is not a traditional rat as it does not involve cooking all the individual elements separately before bringing them together and I am not pan-frying the main veg element first. I'm sure that creates an outstanding version that any French grandmother would be proud of, but frankly, when it is 5.30pm and I need dinner served by 7.30pm, who has the time?!
I took a tip from Felicity Cloake and made mine with a piperade on the bottom and balsamic vinegar to add a richness and depth of flavour which it could otherwise lack, especially if you are using vegetables out of season and this more than compensates for the cheats method of layering your veg without pre-cooking.
3 courgettes, thinly sliced
8 plum tomato's, 4 peeled and diced, 4 thinly sliced
2 red peppers
1 aubergine , thinly sliced
1 medium onion, diced
3 tbsp garlic infused olive oil
3-4 fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp good balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sugar
Heat the oven to 140C,
Place the peppers over the open hob flame, or scorch them with a cook's torch, or halve them and place them cut side down on a lightly oiled baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. You are looking to blister the skin so that you can remove it, so do this anyway that works for you. Heck you could even put them on a slab of marble in your wood fire if you want!
Whilst your peppers are blistering, heat 2 tablespoons of the garlic infused olive oil over a low heat in a pan then cook the onions gently and slowly until translucent and soft (8 minutes or so should do it depending on how finely you chopped your onions). Stir in the diced tomatoes and tablespoon of thyme and simmer gently for about 5 minutes.
Remove the skin from the blistered peppers and cut them into small dice, then add them to the tomato's and cook for another few minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and some salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Spread this tomato and pepper sauce (the piperade) over the bottom of a baking dish then arrange your sliced vegetables (tomato, courgette and aubergine) in alternating layers on top. Mix the remaining garlic olive oil with a teaspoon more thyme and drizzle over the top, then sprinkle the basil leaves.
Cover with foil or a lid and bake for 1.5 hours. Uncover for the last 30 minutes of cooking to crisp up the top layer of vegetables a bit. Garnish with a few more fresh basil leaves and serve with the steak.
While the ratatouille is cooking uncovered for the last 30 minutes, you can get on with the steak.
2 x 250 g quality sirloin steaks, fat removed
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon good (but not extra virgin) olive oil
½ bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Get a griddle pan nice and hot and rub the steaks with the olive oil and paprika and some salt and pepper. Always oil your steak, not the pan!
Sear the steak on one side and then turn until cooked to your liking.
Allow to rest for the same amount of time as you cooked it for (at least), then carve it into strips and place it on the board.
Serve the board with the ratatouille and allow people to dig in, wiping up the mustard dressing as they do.
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