Last week my mum and I went on a last-minute city break to Avignon where we indulged in sunshine, shopping and lots and lots of beautiful food. Since coming back I’ve been on a Provençal cooking kick having been overloaded with inspiration on our mini holiday. Just wandering around the wonderful indoor market is enough to make you want to sell up and move to France: the stalls were overflowing with all manner of heirloom tomatoes; tiny, round green and yellow courgettes; plump purple- and white-flecked aubergines; strings of garlic; fat bundles of fresh herbs and about 20 types of onion. The delis had big bowls of ratatouille to take home and reheat alongside stuffed tomatoes, rabbit stew, individual egg and vegetable flans and roasted meats. Hams and whole salamis hung above mountains of olives and the boulanger oppostie sold crunchy, fresh sourdough bread, fougasse studded with nuts and apple tart by the slice. Other displays contained jewel-like candied fruits, macarons and iced, almond-shaped Calissons from nearby Aix.
All that sensory overload was pointing to ratatouille: a classic southern French dish and something I make every summer with the abundant veggies. I usually serve it as a side dish or with crusty bread and a poached egg but, inspired by Les Halles market, I decided to make a quiche incorporating the flavours of Provence. Ratatouille, being more of a stew, would ordinarily be too juicy to be any good in a quiche – there’d be a serious ‘soggy bottom’ crisis – so I borrowed Clotilde’s idea of a roasted version using courgette, peppers, shallots, tomatoes and plenty of herbs. I used even more herbs in the pastry crust to carry the flavours through the whole dish and finished it all off with a light egg custard and a crumble of savoury goat’s cheese to counter the sweetness of the roasted vegetables. My recipe makes enough ratatouille for two quiches; the flavours improve over time and it freezes exceptionally well so I find it well worth making the extra but you can easily halve it if necessary. The flavour of the quiche also improves if left for a while so you can make it in advance to serve later or even the night before for lunch the next day.
For the ratatouille:
- 2 courgettes
- 2 large red or yellow peppers
- 4 large tomatoes
- 4 shallots
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
For the quiche:
- 225g plain flour
- 100g cold butter
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp dried rosemary
- a pinch of salt
- 2–3 tbsp cold water
- 4 eggs
- 50ml creme fraiche
- 125g goats cheese
Wash and dry the courgettes, peppers and tomatoes. Cut into even, smallish pieces. My courgettes were about 3mm thick. Cut the shallots into similar size pieces. Peel the garlic and crush.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Toss the vegetables and herbs with the oil and season to taste. Place in a single layer in a roasting pan or deep-sided tray, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
Remove the foil from the roasting dish, stir the vegetables and continue to cook for a further 30 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool. Drain off most of the juices, fish out the herbs and stir through the tomato paste.
While the ratatouille is cooking make the pastry:
Mix the flour, salt and herbs in a large bowl then rub in the butter with your fingers or in a food processor until it looks like crumbs. Add most of the water and bring the dough together adding more water if necessary. Roll into a ball, wrap and chill for half and hour.
Roll out the chilled pastry and line a 23cm fluted tart tin. Leave the edges hanging over, line the pastry with grease-proof paper and fill with baking beans.
Bake the pastry case at 200°C for 10 minutes, remove the beans and paper and bake for another 5–8 minutes until starting to brown.
Trim the pasty overhang and snack on the trimmings. Reduce the oven to 180°C.
Spoon half of the ratatouille into the pastry case. Crumble over the goat’s cheese. Beat the eggs and creme fraiche, season with salt and pepper and pour over the ratatouille.
Bake for 25–30 minutes until the eggs are set. Leave to stand for 15 minutes before serving or serve cold.