Last week a colleague from work told me how she makes “pisto”, a spanish ratatouille but basically without aubergine and the “herbs de provence”. I like ratatouille better, I must admit, but I liked her method of cooking it. I generally start sautéing the onions and some garlic slowly and add each ingredient, one at a time, once the previous one is done. But she told me…these are her words: “onions and peppers are very fussy! they don’t like to be sautéed with other ingredients, so you must do one, take it out and then cook the other”. It sounded a bit more time consuming, but if the result was worth it, I thought I ought to give it a try. So over the weekend I went shopping and bought the ingredients I needed.
It was wednesday and still hadn’t had time to make the ratatouille. In fact. I had a busy week, so Linguini had been preparing dinner every day. I thought it was about time to HALT and take a little time to prepare something comforting for that night. I looked into the fridge and saw the completely forgotten veggies awaiting to be used! But when I thought about the ratatouille I decided to postpone it and instead use that idea but quicker way to use up the vegetables and add some “meat” to the dish to make it a more filling “plato único” (that is, just one dish meal). I had some frozen chicken breasts…perfect!
Mediterranean Chicken sauté
enough for 3 servings
1 large red pepper
2 small onions
1 medium aubergine
1 medium courgette
1/2 chicken breast (that is, one side only)
olive oil to sauté each vegetable
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of honey
Black pepper (ideally a pepper mill)
Preheat oven to 220ºC and once ready place your washed red pepper in a tray over enough aluminium paper to wrap it up later. Drizzle a drop of olive oil and season with a pinch of coarse sea salt. (When I make red peppers, I always put in more than needed to keep ready for use for any recipe or just on it’s own with some olive oil and garlic to flavour it!)This will take about 30 minutes. But check how your peppers look. When blistered and almost black on all sides, then take out and wrap in the aluminium paper, so it peels off easily.When cool, peel and deseed separating the segments lengthwise. Cut in half widthwise to then cut into strips.
Meanwhile, slice the onions in julienne. I did all vegetables in a wok I have that is 20 cm diameter in the bottom but it measures 30 cm diameter on top, so it leaves space to stir fry and hold more ingredients when added. So, use a similar pan or one that allows you to later mix all together. Pour oil to cover the bottom and place the sliced onion with a pinch of salt and sauté slowly with medium-low heat so it softens before it starts colouring. It will take about 15 minutes. When very soft and slightly golden, you can, if you have, add a drop of sherry (and serve yourself a glass!) if not, a drop of white wine and the teaspoon of sugar to caramelise it a bit. Give it one more minute, and with a slotted spoon, to leave excess oil behind, place into a fairly big dish (enough to contain all sautéed vegetables) and reserve.
Now, time to stir-fry the courgettes. This is much quicker. You will have had time to cut it into half lengthwise and then start cutting each half with a slight oblique angle into 1/2cm slices or slightly thinner, if you like. Preheat the pan to medium- high heat this time and add the courgette slices and stir-fry turning the slices from time to time so they cook evenly until slightly coloured and soft. Add a pinch of salt and set aside with the onion using the slotted spoon.
Time for the aubergines. Cut lengthwise into 1 cm slices which in turn you will cut into about 1 cm strips and then into squares. Again, preheat the wok to medium heat and pour some more oil to cover the bottom (the aubergines are like sponges, they will such up oil really quick, but once cooked they start to let go of it. So, add as much oil as you would to sauté the onions and if they exude the excess, you’ll reuse for the next step! ). Keep turning the pan until it is evenly coloured and soft. When it starts to let go of the oil it sucked up, they’re ready. Add a pinch of salt and I like to add some honey or nuoc mau (a caramel sauce used for Vietnamese kho (caramelised) dishes) which I love as it adds a toasted caramel flavour. For an excellent recipe go Here. Again, remove into the dish with the onion and courgette.
For the chicken breast, first cut it in half, so it is not so thick and cooks quicker inside. Then, just season with salt (I use Maldon) and pepper and if you like you can add some herbs like oregano, thyme or rosemary. I added a bit of oregano. Preheat the pan to high heat, add a drop of olive oil and place the seasoned breast. Cover the pan so that it cooks inside at the time it colours outside (the wonderful Maillard reaction).When golden brown on that side, turn and cover again until it is cooked through inside but still juicy. Remove and set aside to cool enough to handle.
Finally, preheat the pan, yes, with whatever was left from cooking the chicken and add a bit of oil and drop in the strips of red pepper. Add salt to taste and when it starts to get a bit of colour, it’s already cooked so just needs to coat in the oil a bit, return all the other vegetables to the pan. Break up the cooked chicken in the sense of the fibers into torn strips and add in with any juices left on the plate. Add salt to taste and a bit more pepper. And…à manger!!!
In “burritos”: I served plain with some rice on the side, but it is a fantastic filling for some mexican wraps (tortillas) warm or cold.
As a pasta dish: Also you can mix it with some short style pasta.
As a warm salad: I love to toast some thick chapata slices on a griddle until charred and rub softly a clove of garlic to flavour it. Then you break it up roughly (Jamie Oliver’s style) into bite-size pieces and mix it in. Add a drizzle of olive oil and optionally some balsamic vinegar reduction and parmesan shavings) and it’s DELICIOUS!
You can probably think of some other fantastic ways to serve it! let me know how you like it!