In a week that has seen gale force winds, snow, hail and a return to work – what can I have possibly eaten from my garden? You’d be surprised.
On day two back at work we had a pot luck lunch. You know that thing where people bring in food and share? That.
Our theme this month was Mediterranean. I scoured the fridge and pantry for inspiration. I found lots of dried rosemary and oregano, a jar of passata from the last of the summer tomatoes and my final crown prince squash. What’s more Mediterranean than ratatouille?
Outside, the bay tree saplings are hanging on, so I took just a couple of leaves from them to add to the flavour, and I found my stash of dried shiitake mushrooms.
Shiitakes are really quite easy to grow here in wet mild Mid Wales. I lived on a farm that produced these commercially when my kids were small, and have grown them ever since. They are really easy to dry, and seem to last forever. When dry, they add a lovely smoky depth to sauces, ragouts and vegetarian stock – although I’m not so keen on them as a mushroom, as they have quite a chewy, meaty texture.
The trick to a good ratatouille is to roast the veg individually, then combine in a good thick herby tomato sauce.
Ingredients (made enough for 15)
1 small crown prince squash (or 1 large butternut), peeled and cut into inch square pieces
6 peppers, cut into large chunks
4 medium onions, cut into quarters
4 courgettes, cut into half moon shapes about the thickness of a £1 coin
2 aubergines, thinly sliced
100ml olive oil
1 bulb of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 shiitake mushrooms
Passata, at least 1 litre
1 tbs balsamic vinegar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200C
Lay out each of the veg into separate baking trays, putting the full head of garlic onto the same tray as the peppers.
Drizzle approx. 1tbs (25ml) olive oil over each veg (squash, garlic & peppers, onions, courgettes & aubergines) and a pinch of sea salt.
Roast each veg tray until cooked – about 20 mins for most, a bit longer for the squash.
Combine all veg in a large pan (I used one of my jam pans for this).
Cover with passata and add the shiitake and balsamic, if using.
Simmer gently for 30 mins.
Taste, season (try adding a tsp or two of sugar here, it intensifies the taste of the tomatoes) and serve with crusty bread and salad.