Tropical Vegetable Ratatouille

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Ratatouille is a stewed vegetable dish originated in France. It is a vegan concoction made by stir frying the different varieties of vegetables. It is a highly nutritious stew as three or four types of vegetables are added in the dish. Although this dish belongs to France, chefs all over the world prepare ratatouille with variednuances.

This tropical vegetable ratatouille dish is prepared using vegetables that are grown in home gardens. Some endemic yam varieties such as KiriAla (Xanthosomasagittifolium) along with vegetables and greens that are easily available in the surroundings such as water morning glory (Ipomoea aquatic), hummingbird tree flowers (Sesbania grandiflora), Centella (Centellaasiatica), Eggplant (Solanummelongena), jack seeds and especially avocado is added in this ratatouille recipe.

SEVEN-IN-ONE VEGETABLE CURRY (HATH MAALUWA)

A similar cuisine is prepared on the Sinhala New Year day by village people known as “Hath Maaluwa”- (seven-in-one vegetables curry) which is cooked with seven varieties of vegetables found in the home garden. The traditional Hath Maaluwa is prepared on the Sinhala- Tamil New Year day by Sinhalese people as an accompaniment to the milk rice they prepare and eaten on the auspicious time (Nekatha).

Although there is no one adhered recipe for Hath Maaluwa, people make sure to include seven types of vegetables in the curry. People of different geographical areas in Sri Lanka include different varieties of vegetables that they can procure on the New Year Day from their home garden or surroundings in the Hath Maaluwa. Fresh cashew nuts, tender leaves of pumpkin and jack seeds are essentially included in the Hath Maaluwa, though the rest of the vegetables may vary according to geographical areas.

Tropical vegetable varieties such as beans, aubergine, ash plantain, pumpkin, KiriAla, leafy vegetables and greens are added in Hath Maaluwa. Vegetables are cooked in coconut milk with salt, chili powder, turmeric powder, curry powder, pepper, curry leaves and Pandan leaves. When the vegetables are cooked and ready to remove from the hearth, first extracted coconut are added and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Coconut oil is heated in a frying pan and mustard seeds are added. When the mustard seeds begins to burst in simmering oil cooked curry is added in the oil.

The following ratatouille recipe is influenced by the Sri Lankan Hath Maaluwa and tropical vegetable varieties that are commonly included in the traditional Hath Maaluwa such as KiriAla, jack seeds and eggplant are included to give it a touch of Sri Lankan traditional village food.

INGREDIENTS

Jack seeds- a few

KirIAla- 1 yam

Hummingbird tree flowers(Ahaththipu/ Kathurumurunga mal)

Water morning glory (Kankun)

Centella (Gotukola/ Vallarai)

Avocado -1/2

Eggplant (Ela Batu)

Beans (optional)

Spring onions- 5

Garlic- 5 medium sized cloves

White pepper- ¼ tsp

Kochchi (Capsicum frutescens)- 4 or according to the tolerance

Tomato- 1

Bay leaf- 1

Basil

Olive oil- ½ cup

Salt

Coconut milk- 2 cups (light extracted)

Lime juice- 1 tsp

Coconut vinegar- 2 tsps

DIRECTIONS

Chop Kiri Ala, avocado and eggplant into small pieces. Coarsely crush jack seeds using a medium sized stone or a rolling pin so as to remove the outer husk. Add light extract of coconut milk into an earthenware pot. Add chopped Kiri Ala, avocado, crushed jack seeds, eggplant and salt. Cook the ingredients for about ten minutes or until the vegetables become tender.

Once the vegetables are cooked, drain excess water and transfer to a plate.

Heat olive oil in a casserole pan. Add chopped garlic, onions, tomato and bay leaf and cook until the onions become translucent. Add capsicum (Kochchi), basil leaves, hummingbird tree flowers, water morning glory, beans (if desired), centella and salt and stir for two minutes. Add the boiled ingredients- avocado, Kiri Ala, jack seeds and eggplant. Stir the vegetables well. Check the salt and add a little salt if necessary. Add white pepper and coconut vinegar. Cook the vegetables for another five minutes under low heat stirring constantly. Switch off the stove and add lime juice and mix well. Keep the pan closed for another two minutes after switching off the stove.

You can also stir fry the vegetables separately and mix at the end to preserve the individual taste of the vegetables. In the authentic recipe of ratatouille, garlic in large number is added.

Serve tropical vegetable ratatouille with white rice or grilled bread.

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