My mum first introduced me to ratatouille when I was at school and on hearing the name I loved the sound of the word. She would serve it up with baked chicken pieces or as a side dish to many different main courses. It sounded exciting, something I should be eating and so I tucked in and wasn’t disappointed.
Continuing on with my bbq side ideas that are easy to prepare and can be made in advance I’m adding to last week’s peperonata recipe with another, this classic French stewed vegetable recipe, the famous ratatouille. Only my recipe is a ratatouille slow cooker one.
This is a perfect side for all year round, great with grilled chops, sausages, gammon and chicken too. Perfect to accompany salamis and a cheeseboard and also fabulous for popping on the buffet at bbqs. It’s best served up hot but can be eaten cold too.
Ratatouille is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish originating from Nice. Interestingly the recipe comes form Occitan cuisine which is a Mediterranean gastronomy taking in Catalan cuisine to the east and Italian cuisine to the west. It bases its recipes on local produce and adapts them to the area.
I did serve it to my children but Alice, the less adventurous of the two ate the tomatoes and left pretty much the rest whereas Bessie wasn’t over enthused. Peppers do have a particular taste to them which can be quite prominent once the sweetness of the tomato sauce has disappeared.
Another delicious recipe I learnt in Italy is peperonata, a popular side dish served with meats and in my humble opinion perfect for barbecues.
My Italian mother in law would serve peperonata alongside nodini di vitello (veal chops) or pork chops. This saucy accompaniment is a staple recipe in any Italian cookbook as it is simple, quick and tasty PLUS it will do as the main side needing no other food to go with it.
The slow cooking of the peppers softens them and draws out their taste which can be subtly tasted in the sauce and the original recipe can be added to or spiced up as you please.
Peperonata can be served hot or cold and used to accompany meats, fish or like I said at the beginning, a perfect side for a bbq. It can be prepared in advance and if there’s any leftover just add it to a casserole or freeze it.
“These are our salad days,” sang Spandau Ballet back in the day and now is the time of year when salads come into being and I love a good salad. I eat salad every day for lunch
Higgidy pies recently teamed up with Sarah Raven, the gardening people. They put their heads together and sent out to the blogging world a challenge ‘Make us the perfect salad to serve alongside a Higgidy pie’
Wonderful I thought, I’m in!
I was sent along a pack of lettuce seedlings to grow in my back garden, I put them in tubs and forgot to label them as I was in a hurry for the school run Big Mistake. I put them in a shady area and I waited for the risk of frost to go. I used a good compost and there was no need to water frequently as the weather turned and it rained every day.
However, during all that rain we were visited. Frequently and I wasn’t paying attention, the slugs and snails got to two of my tubs! Ate the damn lot. so I popped them up on a metal fire pit that’s out of use at the moment hoping it would be too uncomfortable for them to climb up, it’s a bit rusty you see.
Anyway, seeing as I wasn’t having much luck with my lettuce but wanting to take part in the challenge anyway I went out to buy some ingredients, I let my gut lead me and chose my favourite things that are very popular at the moment, asparagus, rocket, french beans and baby tomatoes, then I made my salad and it was really really good.
So now remains to choose which Higgidy pie I serve it with and having had a look at their website I’m going to choose the Chicken & Smoky Spanish Chorizo Pie because the delicate flavours of my salad will be the perfect backdrop to this punchy chicken pie.
It was only a month or so ago that we planted our first seeds curious as to what we would be able to grow and now our kitchen window sill is a mass of greenery. So much it’s beginning to get on my nerves to tell the truth. It’s looking cluttered and a bit too much but until the fear of frost has passed I have to keep them indoors or risk losing the lot which would be a shame as I’m looking forward to reaping my summer produce.
We started with tomatoes as having successfully grown them in the past and boasted about them to anyone who would listen. Since replanting the seedlings I have given 10 plants away to my brother (which probably didn’t make it this far) and to my niece Rosie and nephew Billy (which stand more of a chance of survival) I am still left with around 30 tomato plants that are coming on stronger day by day. I added some sunflower seeds for the girls to enter into the Gravesham sunflower contest, we have to grow the tallest by 31st July 2011 and to top off My First Allotment I have courgette, dwarf runner bean and pumpkin (for Halloween) plants all looking healthy and ready to go. I have also bought two strawberry plants which are starting to flower.
So when should I move them outside? I asked my neighbours, both retired and season veg growers but they shook their heads at me, sucked in breath between their lips and tutted their reactions basically telling me they didn’t want to let on the magical moment. Cloches, one mentioned and I must admit to free up kitchen surface I am tempted but I don’t have any cloches and need to investigate this option further.
So I am torn between moving the whole lot outside to fare for themselves and regain my kitchen surfaces or keeping them in for another fortnight and not being able to see out of the kitchen window. Maybe it’s time to consult Alan Titchmarsh to see what he would do.
What would you do? All advice greatly accepted and have a lovely week