Today I’m sharing a really delicious recipe. And I know what makes it delicious - it’s because of a few rockstar ingredients.......
What are rockstar ingredients?
Well, the name might give you a clue. They are ingredients that really add to the dish. They are like a music group, where there is really only one talented or good-looking one. But their rockstar power infects the others, and voila, a group is made! Really though, everyone knows that without the rockstar, the group is well, a bit crap really. But no one wants to see only the rockstar, all the time - it’s just too much - they need the whole group.
This is the same for recipes! Rockstar ingredients make or break a recipe, as without them, you have a dull, flavourless dish. But if you add too much, you’re so over it……
Smoked Pepper Ratatouille - let me introduce today’s rockstars
All five of these rockstars complement each other perfectly, in the three-part dish being featured today, smoked pepper ratatouille.
- Smoked paprika - also called Spanish Paprika, this stuff is amazing and will bring out the BBQ in anyone. I add it to everything - roasted vegetables, eggs, soups, salads. It’s packed full of vitamins such as Vitamin A, E, Iron and Cartenoids - these all help build and repair cells. Add this rockstar to your dish will yield such a deep smoky flavour, without all the effort of a BBQ
- Red Pepper Flakes (Chili Flakes) - not only do you need a pinch for a spicy kick, red pepper flakes boast huge nutritional benefits, such as increasing your metabolism, reducing the feeling of being hungry, and helping with inflammation and pain. I’ve already talked about the benefits of cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes have similar powers. But they also give that heat to a dish, to give a bit more flavour. I’m not someone to tolerate a lot of spice, just a pinch makes all the difference.
- Rosemary - I am lucky and have a massive rosemary bush in my garden. Rosemary gives such a nice earthy flavour to dishes. Just smelling it reminds me of being outside in fresh pines. It also stimulates the immune system, increasing blood circulation, which is said to improve your concentration and digestion. I add it to gin and tonics (somehow I think the gin must counterbalance the concentration-improving effects)! Rosemary pairs very well with peppers, pumpkins and squash, which is why you’ll see it featured today as a rockstar.
- Sundried Tomatoes - these have so much flavour, oh my goodness. It’s a like a party in your mouth. I love adding sundried tomatoes to all my dishes, using the oil from the jar to further infuse all that salty/sweet flavour. Sundried Tomatoes contain a lot of vitamins and fibre, although they are extremely high in sugar and salt, so one per person should suffice. If you are quitting sugar, just omit.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - oh how I love thee! Such a natural ingredient with so many benefits (see 15 reasons to use apple cider vinegar everyday). This is my secret ingredient to making grains taste delicious, to making a creamy avocado dressing, and to making a wonderful butternut squash dressing (featured in today’s recipe!)
What is Ratatouille?
Ratatouille is a traditional French dish (coming from Nice), and the word originates from the French word “touiller”, which means "to toss". In a way, that’s exactly what ratatouille is - a medley of vegetables tossed together. It doesn’t matter how many, which ones, or when. They all go in a pan, are fried and reduced in oil, to make the most delicious topping for any meal. You can eat Ratatouille cold or hot, on toasted bread, with olives, with pasta, the list goes on!
I love the process of cutting the fresh peppers, and always try to get a variety of colours. They really brighten up the dish, and all offer different nutritional benefits.
Now, let's add in the rockstars - smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, rosemary and apple cider vinegar
Folks, this recipe is so warm and comforting. It takes almost no thinking, and leaves you lots of time to do other things while it’s cooking.
This dish has three parts
- Quinoa (the base) - I used quinoa instead of pasta for this recipe, which absorbed all the flavours of the ratatouille without getting soggy. It’s a healthier version of risotto, and made me warm and happy, almost like eating lasagna, or a big bowl of noodles. But I was left full of energy, rather than full and sleepy!
- Butternut Squash Dressing (the sauce) - instead of a tomato sauce, I roasted butternut squash in the oven, with…….yep, you guessed it - smoked paprika, red chili flakes and rosemary! I mixed the squash with apple cider vinegar for a tartness, and blended into a delicious sauce to go on the quinoa.
- Smoked Pepper Ratatouille (the topping) - the smoked paprika and other rockstar ingredients result in this delicious reduction of peppers, aubergines (eggplants), courgettes (zucchini) and onions. I added sun-dried tomatoes for a salty kick, and used the infused olive oil from the jar to add more depth to the dish. Top with fresh basil as well, which is divine.
I hope you try these rockstars in your cooking, and we look forward to hearing your favourite recipes using these ingredients. Enjoy this dish, including the leftovers which are perfect for lunch tomorrow.
- Substitute couscous, rice or pasta for quinoa
- If you have die-hard meat eaters, this would pair well with spanish chorizo sausage
- Serve ratatouille on toast, with toasted sardines on top (it's really good, trust me!)
- Crumble cheese on top, I used "Boursin Fine Herbs and Garlic" and it melted and was fantastic, but feta would be good too
Smoked Pepper Ratatouille
This ratatouille is on fire! Bringing back a classic with a twist! Try this today with our three-part recipe for quinoa, butternut squash dressing and ratatouille, or try it with toast, pasta, or on its own. Delicious!
- One aubergine (eggplant), cut into small cubes (about the size of your pinky fingernail)
- One courgette (zucchini), also cut into small cubes
- 4 peppers of any colour (try a mix!) - red, green, orange or yellow, also cut into small cubes
- 1 red onion, cut into small cubes
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, cut roughly into small pieces
- 3 tablespoons oil
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped, or dried rosemary
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes (or more if you like it hot)
- Prepare quinoa as per package instructions (1:3 ratio quinoa to water, with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar). You can cook this while cooking the ratatouille.
- Heat a medium-sized pot on the stove with the oil (medium heat)
- When hot, add in the onions and garlic, cook until soft (about 2-3 minutes)
- Add in the paprika, rosemary, red pepper flakes and salt/pepper, stir until mixed
- Add in the aubergine, courgette and peppers, and stir well.
- Turn down the heat to low, and cook for 15-20 minutes. Check and stir occasionally, if the vegetables are sticking add 1 tablespoon water from time to time (not too much!)
- The ratatouille will be done when all the vegetables are soft and have become a lovely, stew-like mixture.
- To serve, put quinoa first, then add the butternut squash sauce, then top with ratatouille. Add fresh basil on top, or cheese, if desired. I crumbled some "Boursin fine herbs & garlic" soft cheese on top, which was also heavenly.
Butternut Squash Dressing
This roasted butternut squash dressing is great on grains, salad, or on its own. The rosemary and red pepper flakes give the sauce a nice kick, with the apple cider vinegar pairing well.
- 1 medium butternut squash
- Fresh or Dried Rosemary
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Smoked Paprika
- Salt and Pepper
- Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)
- Wash the butternut squash on the outside to remove any dirt (water is fine)
- Cut lengthwise, and scoop out seeds
- Drizzle some olive oil lightly on inside flesh of the butternut squash.
- Sprinkle with smoked paprika, rosemary, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
- Put facedown on a metal baking tray. Rub a bit more olive oil on the back on the squash, and put in the oven.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the skin is golden brown and crackling, and the inside flesh is soft.
- Remove from oven, and let cool. When the butternut squash has cooled, you will be able to peel off the skin, or scrape out the flesh with a metal spoon.
- Put the flesh in a bowl, and add the apple cider vinegar. Add more rosemary, and salt and pepper, to taste, if necessary. Don't add smoked paprika as it will overpower the squash.
- Blend in a food processor or blender to a desired saucy consistency.
- Reheat and top on quinoa, adding ratatouille as topping.