My husband’s Auntie M. is extremely grand. She is the kind of woman who has a favorite table at The Wolseley. Ditto J. Sheekey’s. Ditto Ronnie Scott’s. Of course she hasn’t been to the latter since the late 60s. Why should she? Mose Allison hasn’t been in years. And though she is a woman, she has celebrated more than a few of her birthdays with private parties at Boodle’s. The smoked eel there is wonderful. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Did I mention Auntie M. is extremely grand? She is. She has the diction of a Mitford and better posture than the queen.
On my 30th birthday, Auntie M. gave me an Hermès scarf. She told me now that I was a woman of a certain age, my wardrobe required it.
Last week, I saw Auntie M. and she gave me a few heads of wild French garlic. She had just been to her home in the Languedoc and picked up several beautiful bunches before crossing the channel back to Angleterre.
This gift inspired me to make an enormous pot of ratatouille. Not only because it’s delicious but because I can’t wait to tell Auntie M. I always smile at the way she rrrrolls her posh Scottish Rs.
7 cloves of garlic, grated
2 onions, chopped
2 medium eggplant (aubergines), chopped
3 zucchini (courgettes), chopped
4 bell peppers, I like to get all different colors
600 grams piccolo tomatoes, quartered and de-seeded
1 bunch of thyme, chopped
1 bunch of basil, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat about a 1/4 cup of olive oil over a medium low flame. Then add the onions and garlic.
Stir constantly, making sure nothing burns. When they start to caramelize, add the eggplant and thyme.
When that starts to go soft, add the peppers, zucchini, and half the basil.
When those start to go soft, add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir to incorporate.
Season with salt and pepper and don’t be precious with the salt. You’ll need quite a bit. Garnish with the remaining basil and serve.
This goes so well with Bandol Rosé or a Picpoul de Pinet, my favorite being from Domaine La Grangette as my husband recently wrote about.