One Pot Ratatouille with Chickpeas

I’m a pretty easy, cheap date. Sure, you can fly me to the other side of the globe and take me out to dinner. You can seat me at one of the best restaurants in the world- happily. Heck, if you even felt like you needed to make a list of the top ten restaurants in the world and make a project of going to all of them, I’ll cheerfully tag along. I’ll wear a nice dress and novelty sized earrings and make civilised conversation about the relative mousse of the bubble in the champagne served with amouse bouche. I’ll be appropriately awed.  I’ll eat my soup the right way and not snigger when someone lays a napkin over my loins.

On some sticky, avocado-smeared days I miss those did-they-really-happen nights so much that I wish the picture books that litter the spare bed in my son’s room were a portal through time.

‘That’s not my car, it’s hubcaps are too squashy….’ ‘That’s not my dinner at Noma, the shellfish are too foreign!’

Most of the time, life with a small fry is glorious.

But down to brass tacks; eating out is less practical these days. For one; there’s the liquid-legged exhaustion to navigate.

I write these to those still deep in the trenches, I can report from the nearly-other-side.  It’s getting better. Oh, life with a wakeful one.  But we’re still on the two steps forward, one step back sleep train. Just two weeks ago my sister suggested the two of us head out to dinner at 8 pm.  I so wanted to go. Great food, good conversation. A few stolen hours of adult company while I was in the country, with a grandparent to babysit to boot.  Yet the future me; the one who knew she’d be up at 3 and start the day at 5 found herself spilling out with; ‘thanks but….. I just can’t. Can we do coffee tomorrow morning at 8?’

The benefits of being up and about at 6 am. An empty beach.

Then there’s the babysitter issue when we’re back home. It’s hard to luxuriate through course seven of 12, or mellow into a digestif when there’s an internal clock ticking over at $25 per hour.

Six nights out of seven all I need is someone to pour me a glass of wine. The shining point of a day is the downhill sashay from the page in ‘Good Night Moon’ when we say ‘Goodnight Mush’. From there it’s smooth sailing; goodnight stars, goodnight air. Goodnight noises, everywhere.

When three minutes later I shut the door on a drifting off-to-sleep Will,  if I see a glass of wine, ready cued for me by the couch, my heart starts to sing.  Sure, if I don’t tread on a block, or trip over a half deflated balloon on my way to the kitchen, that’s a boon.

I’m coming around to the merits of simpler food. By that I mean streamlining processes. There are grabby little hands everywhere in my kitchen and a small fellow who likes to open all of the cupboards and wear saucepans as hats. Hence, why use three pans when one will do? Why sautee everything separately, when mingling the flavours makes little difference in the end?

But bowl food doesn’t have to be tasteless mush.

Which is where this dinner comes in. There are more ways to make ratatouille than you can poke a stick at. You can artfully layer it in a tian. You can roast it. You can lean heavily on peppers. But what you really want is something that highlights the warm bounty of  eggplants and tomatoes. I’m not always a fan of peppers, so here I’ve gone for fennel, courgette and onion as supporting players.  But if you love them, feel free to invite them to the party. To add a little more heft and protein I’ve lobbed in some chickpeas at the close. And because I think they’re all friends, I’ve jazzed it up with a sneaky hit of cumin.

The one thing that helps make this work in one pot is cutting things to the right size. You want the onion in slivers, so it unwinds over heat into sweet tangles. You want the fennel to be in small-ish dice, so it scatters easily across the whole braise. The eggplant should be somewhere between the size of playing dice and matchbooks, so it cooks in concert with the other vegetables (there’s nothing worse than the eraser-like-chew of uncooked eggplant). The courgette sits in half moons, so it splays across a fork easily. And the tomatoes work best in eights, so they break down and gloss everything sweetly.

The salt I use is flaked maldon (what I always use) and is added in stages- it’s what helps to draw the liquids out of the vegetables and turn a rough tumble of nightshades into a pliant supper.

Sometimes I top this with fried eggs. Other times, with nuggets of halloumi or a scattering of feta. I’ve had it as a side to grilled fish, lamb and chicken. It’s festive, low maintenance and bright. It’s the sort of food that’s working for us right now.

All it needs is a glass of wine on the side.

Some things never change.

One Pot Ratatouille with Chickpeas

Serves 4-6 (leftovers will keep for a few days happily in the fridge)


3 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
1 red onion, cut into slim half moons
1 tbsp salt flakes
1 tsp ground cumin (optional)
1 small fennel/ 1/2 large fennel, cut into 1.5 cm dice
3 tomatoes, core removed and cut into 8ths
1 large courgette/zucchini, halved lengthways and cut into 1 cm half circles
1 large eggplant, cut into 2 cm cubes (approx the size of playing dice)
1 x 400 g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

 Here’s how we roll

1) Add the olive oil to the bottom of a heavy Dutch oven and place over medium/ low heat. Add the onion, garlic, half the salt and all the cumin (if you fancy a bit of an exotic lilt). Sautee for 7 minutes, not letting anything burn or catch, but just gently softening. Meanwhile, continue the prep of your other veg.

2) Add the fennel to the pan and sautee for 5 minutes, to help that to soften.


3) Add the chopped eggplant, courgette and tomatoes and the remaining salt. Stir carefully to combine (the pot will seem quite full- don’t fret, it will all wilt down).


4) Clamp on the lid and braise over medium heat for 35 minutes, lifting the lid every 10 minutes or so to stir to prevent things catching on the bottom. If things are, turn the heat down a little).

5) When the eggplant and fennel is soft and pliant, add the drained chickpeas. Stir to combine and heat the chickpeas through.  Taste for seasoning, if it needs a little extra kick, add a pinch of chilli flakes, some pepper, or a tablespoon or two of red wine vinegar.

6) Top with flat leaf parsley. Eat as is, or with poached or fried eggs, nuggets of halloumi or feta, grilled chicken, roast lamb or pan seared fish.


{ 1 Comment }
  1. Honestly, most nights anything tastes good with a glass of wine, even the That is Not my Puppy board book I just finished reading… but you are absolutely right, some things definitely taste better than others… this for example, I am sure.

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