Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vegetable Ratatouille and Sage Soda Bread

At the start of this year, I set a goal of making one new recipe a week, on a Sunday. That plan has really never gone brilliantly. On the weeks I do try something new, a positive outcome is never guaranteed. On the other weeks, I am too disorganised and/or don't feel like trialling new recipes, and I dish up a quick, familiar, and non-exciting meal.

Last weekend, to my delight, I tried two new recipes and both turned out to be edible. And both were easy. Success!

Chunky Ratatouille Stew
Adapted from a cookbook of my Mum's, title not remembered because I copied the recipe with no book-related details (very poor behaviour)
Serves 4 - 6

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large red capsicum, chopped (sliced or diced, to preference)
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and chopped
  • ~1/2 cup green beans, chopped
  • 2 full sticks of celery, chopped
  • 4 mushrooms, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tin crushed tomatoes, with added herbs if possible
  • ~1.5 tsp dried basil or equivalent fresh
  • ~200g (1/2 tin) canned cannelloni beans, or equivalent from dry
  • ~1 tbsp water
  • Oil for cooking, to taste
(Note. The original recipe called for 2 tbsp dry red wine and didn't include cannelloni beans.)

  1. Heat a non-stick pan and add a light coating of oil or oil spray.
  2. Add onions and capsicum and cook until slightly soft and the onion is golden.
  3. Transfer to a saucepan; add eggplant and ~1tbsp water.
  4. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  5. Add beans, celery and mushroom; continue to cook on low heat for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Add basil and tinned tomato; continue to cook on low heat for a further 5 minutes.
  7. Add canneloni beans; continue to cook on low heat for a final 5 minutes.
Other than the vegetable chopping, which can be done in stages given that the vegetables are cooked in batches, this is a super simple and quick meal.

The cooking time is about 25 minutes from start to finish, but the meal could also be made in advance and left to sit or simmer until needed.

My final product looked somewhat like minestrone, which I think was due to my dicing vegetables rather than leaving some in strips, but I found the taste was thicker and more flavoursome than soup.

Sage Soda Bread
Also adapted from a cookbook of my Mum's, title not remembered
Serves 6 - 8 as a side dish

Side note: Soda bread is made with bicarbonate of soda instead of yeast, and also (traditionally at least) involves buttermilk. This combination of ingredients react to give carbon dioxide, which allows the bread to rise without yeast or extended rising time. 

I had half a carton of buttermilk left from my failed Mother's Day carrot cake, which was one of the reasons I elected to make this loaf. Interestingly, buttermilk was so named because it was the milk left behind when butter was churned out of cream, so it's actually lower in fat than standard milk. It's also higher in lactic acid, which is why it works so well when reacting with bicarbonate of soda. 

I'm not sure if non-dairy milks would work, but I guess it could be tried.

  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1 cup plain white flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ~2 tbsp chopped fresh sage, or equivalent dried

  1. Preheat oven to 220'C.
  2. Combine flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda.
  3. Add sage and then buttermilk, and combine to make a soft dough. Mix well and knead very slightly.
  4. Form dough into a rough ball, cut a cross in the top (I assume for cooking rather than religious purposes...), and place on a greased baking tray.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped (I found this last point quite amusing, but the loaf really does sound hollow when ready!).

Voila...home made bread in under an hour.

The taste and texture were reminiscent of a savoury scone, and quite different to standard bread.

I'm not usually a savoury scone person, but I did enjoy this (perhaps having it straight out of the oven helped!) and it paired well with the ratatouille.

All in all, this dinner was easy to make and a nice change to standard routines. The ratatouille was a great source of varied vegetables, and if you aren't serving lots of people, the recipe makes enough for several batches of work lunch leftovers.


  1. Awesome goal to try a new recipe every week! I'm trying to learn as much as I can this summer before I'm in my apartment this fall without my mom to give me tips :)

  2. Oh gosh, I've been meaning to make soda bread for - no joke - about a year. Love the idea of a sage version!

  3. @Tori (Fresh Fruition)
    How exciting :) I hope you have fun with the learning and experimenting! I confess to eating a lot of toast and cereal when I first moved out of home...but it sounds like you're practicing in advance to avoid such a pitfall!

  4. @Hannah
    I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't always do things they plan to do in a timely manner :p I would recommend soda bread though, as it is surprisingly easy!

  5. this sage soda bread looks better than the one I recently tried

    you can add some lemon juice or at a pinch vinegar (I think about 1 tsp) to plain milk to use instead of buttermilk but if you just substitute milk there isn't the acid to react with the bicarb soda

  6. @Johanna GGG
    Thanks so much for the vinegar tip. I was wondering how it could be non-dairy-ised, and that would make it possible (if used with non-dairy milk). Thanks!


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