Breast or leg?

Ratatouille. The word comes from Occitan (ratatolha), a romance language spoken in southern France, Italy’s Occitan Valleys, Monaco and Spain’s Val d’Aran. The French word “touiller” means to toss food. The dish originated in the area around present day Occitan Provenca.

To me, it is a wonderful childhood memory of my Nanna. I loved ratatouille as a kid, especially hers. My preference was for a large bowl of the vegetable goodness covered in grated cheese. A satisfying and comforting meal that could hold it's own, no side of meat required.

It is still a regular feature in our home, most commonly the day before market day! I wouldn’t say we follow a traditional ratatouille recipe every time. It sometimes becomes more of a “what’s left in the fridge” style dish.

Last night I took this favourite vegetable dish of mine to a whole new level. I added some chicken (breast for Andrew of course!) and encased it in puff pastry. I have just finished demolishing the leftovers for lunch.

There is only one poor quality photo of the delicious pie to accompany this post but you will have to make do as I wanted to share the recipe ASAP!

It is quick, simple, tasty and perfect for winter (or an apartment that sports Arctic like air conditioning!).


Chicken and Ratatouille Pie
A traditional ratatouille dish will use peppers (capsicum) but I am not a fan. You can also vary the below vegetable list, be as creative as you like! Celery and spinach are another two vegetables I on occasion like to sub in to a ratatouille. Or as stated above use "what's left in the fridge"!

1 medium red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
3 small or 1 large leek, sliced
1 large eggplant, slice into 0.5cm rounds and then cut each round into quarters
½ a yellow & ½ a green zucchini, slice into 1cm rounds then cut each round into quarters
10 button mushrooms chopped into quarters
Large fistful of thin French beans
500g of chicken breast or thigh diced into 1cm cubes
1 tin of chopped, peeled tomatoes
1 tbs of tomato paste
1 large or 2 small chicken stock cubes
2tbs of cornflour, mix into a paste by adding 3 tbs of water
2 sheets of puff pastry (I use Pampas)
Ground black pepper and sea salt
1 beaten egg for glazing

Preheat your oven to 160°C. Prepare all of your vegetables and the chicken.

Heat a solid dash of olive oil in a heavy based soup pot on the stove, add the chopped garlic, leek and onion and gently fry until the onion is translucent. Add the diced chicken and seal all sides.

At the same time dissolve the chicken stock cube(s) in 3tbs of boiling water and add the tomato paste. Stir to form a thick but pourable paste. Add a touch more water if the consistency isn't pourable.

Once the chicken is sealed add all of the vegetables to the pot as well as the tinned tomatoes, the tomato paste mixture and season with ground black pepper and sea salt to taste.

Add an extra cup of water and allow the mixture to simmer on the stove until the vegetables just start to become tender, have reduced a little in volume and some of the liquid has evapourated. This should take around 20 minutes.

Add your cornflour paste to thicken the remaining liquid and remove the pot from the heat.

Take one sheet of your puff pastry and line the bottom and sides of a 23cm loose bottom round flan tin that has deep sides. Spoon in half of the chicken and ratatouille mixture then seal the pie with the remaining sheet of puff pastry.

Cut four small slits in the lid to allow steam to escape while the pie is baking in the oven and glaze the lid with the beaten egg.

Place the pie in the oven and bake until the pastry has puffed and the lid is golden. This should take around 40 minutes.

Serve with a small green salad, warm minted peas or blanched kale.

Yield: 2 pies - the chicken mixture will make enough for 2 pies if you use a 23cm round loose bottom flan tin. I made 1 pie and froze the remaining mixture "as was" for an easy meal on another week night. I will use it in another pie or you could also serve it atop pasta or bake it into a lasagna.