Sunshine on your plate

Karen Martini
Karen Martini's ratatouille.
Karen Martini's ratatouille. Photo: MARINA OLIPHANT

Ratatouille is emblematic of sun-drenched Provence in southern France, but it's also a great full-flavoured dish for winter and one of my favourite ways of eating Mediterranean vegetables. My girls have started enjoying ratatouille alongside anything from fish to lamb chops with feta, or a simple fried egg with toast.


There are super-refined versions of ratatouille for which you cook all the ingredients separately and assemble them at the last minute, but I prefer this braised rustic style, with a good lick of oil. This dish is better the next day once the flavours mingle and intensify.

3 eggplants

4 red peppers (capsicum)

180ml extra virgin olive oil

2 brown onions, sliced in half moons

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 fresh bay leaves

6 sprigs thyme


2 tbsp dried oregano

6 medium zucchini, cut in 2cm rounds

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 orange, juiced and zest of ½ orange

2 tsp brown sugar

Salt flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

Lemon juice to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan-forced or 200 degrees conventional.

2. Place the eggplants on a tray, bake for 60 minutes, then remove and allow to cool. Once cooled, cut them in half, scoop out the flesh and roughly chop (discard the skin).

3. Scorch the skins of the red capsicums over a gas burner, blackening them all over (you can also place them under a hot grill). Place in a bag or in a bowl covered with cling film and allow to cool. Remove the skins, discard the seeds and dice the flesh - about a three-centimetre dice.

4. In a medium pot, add the oil, onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes to soften. Add the herbs and cook a further 5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook another 10 minutes. Add the zucchini, eggplant flesh, tomatoes, tomato paste, orange juice and zest and sugar. Season with salt and pepper and allow to simmer slowly for 45 minutes or until the zucchini is tender but still just holding its shape - the mix will be quite stiff to start but the zucchini will let out quite a bit of water as it cooks, so watch it carefully. Once cooked, squeeze in some lemon juice and serve.

Drink Provencal rosé

Serves 8 (as a side dish)


Bread-crusted King George whiting with ratatouille

This is such a simple but delicious dish. The buttery, garlicky bread toasts off to a golden crust and is a perfect foil for the gently cooked fish and zesty lemon.

1 unsliced loaf of white bread (stale will be easier to handle), crusts removed

120g butter

Salt flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, finely grated

1 lemon, zested

4 large fillets King George whiting, pin-boned and trimmed, skin on

1 handful parsley leaves, chiffonade

1/2 recipe ratatouille, warmed

1. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut four slices, each about half a centimetre thick, along the length of the loaf - this may seem a little difficult at first, but a sharp knife, stale bread and a little patience will get you there.

2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter, season well and add the garlic and lemon zest, and mix. Generously brush the butter onto one side of each slice of bread, lay the fish fillets on top, skin-side down pressing firmly. Trim the excess bread from around the fillets, and brush the flesh of the fish with butter. Flip over the entire thing so you can brush the underside of the bread generously with butter. Sprinkle the parsley on this side (the bread side).

3. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and fry the fillets bread side down for about 4 minutes (take care; don't let the bread burn), then flip over briefly to finish the cooking and remove from the pan. Serve with the warm ratatouille and a good squeeze of lemon.

Drink Riesling

Serves 4


Eggs with ratatouille, ricotta and anchovies

This is a filling and nutritious breakfast and perfect for when you've cooked a big batch of ratatouille. Use the best anchovies you can find and super-fresh ricotta from the deli - it will make all the difference.

1/2 quantity ratatouille

4 organic eggs, at room temperature

Salt flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

150g fresh ricotta

4 premium anchovy fillets

Fresh oregano to garnish (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fan-forced or 220 degrees conventional.

2. Heat the ratatouille in a medium saucepan.

3. Spoon the hot ratatouille into small ceramic or earthenware dishes - you could also use one large dish. Make indentations with a spoon and crack in the eggs. Season lightly, crumble over the ricotta and lay the anchovies over the top.

4. Place the dishes in the preheated oven with the griller on for 10 minutes or until the eggs are done to your liking. Sprinkle with some oregano leaves (if using) and serve.

Drink Fresh orange juice

Serves 4