The term ratatouille instantly evokes the vista of a sunny Provence kitchen, abuzz with pots and pans nearly colliding as they waggle past one another from stovetop to oven to sink, naked pods of garlic bathing in herb-infused olive oils, the yellow of squashes, the green of peppers, and the purple of eggplants adding a psychedelic edge to the picture, all while the rhythmic beats of a Zouk come alive in one’s ears. If it doesn’t, then you’re probably intimidated by Julia Child’s elaborate recipe that commands much more than a patient disposition and an array of wooden spoons and skillets, to stir and saute the shiny summer harvests one by one.
Either way, when this mighty story of the authentic ratatouille unfolds in a folksy Indian kitchen that swears by its Tadka and spice, chances are it will be stripped down to the very basics and tossed and twirled in bittersweet, earthy flavors, to round off the everyday roti-sabzi experience. The outcome is not severely discordant when measured up against the Parisian version, possibly, but we can’t promise that the urge to break into a Balle-balle won’t surpass that of a Zouk.
Sabzi-touiller, a la Ratatouille
2 Zucchinis, sliced into thin semi-circles
3 Baby eggplants, sliced into thin semi-circles
1 Large bell pepper, sliced thin and long
1 Medium-sized onion, sliced thin and long
4 Cloves of garlic, minced
1 Medium-sized tomato, chopped
1 Tablespoon light olive oil, plus a little extra for drizzling
1 Teaspoon each of mustard, cumin
A pinch of turmeric
1 Teaspoon each of red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder (or according to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
A dash of garam masala powder
1 Teaspoon besan, mixed with 2 Tablespoons thick yoghurt and a pinch of salt
A bunch of cilantro, finely chopped, for the garnish
Line the sliced zucchinis, eggplants and bell pepper on a baking sheet, sprinkle some salt and pepper, drizzle some light olive oil, mix well and bake for 25 minutes in a 375 degree oven. In a pan, warm a tablespoon of light olive oil and season with mustard, cumin and turmeric. Add the garlic and onions, a dash of salt, and let them cook until they turn golden brown. Add the oven-roasted vegetables, more salt, the spices, then the tomatoes, cover and let cook until the tomatoes are tender.
Add the besan and yoghurt mix, stir well and let cook for another 3-4 minutes. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and serve hot with phulkas or rotis. Tune up a bhangra, whisk up a lassi, and watch over your plate before someone else in the family steals a bite or two from your precious Sabzi-touiller.