Léa’s Nostalgic Ratatouille
This is Léa.
Léa is – you may have guessed it already – French. And I would not want her to be from anywhere else because her accent is wonderful, her way of dressing is très jolie and she carries the heart of a French baker inside her chest. ♥ What do I mean by that? Léa loves baguette (as any true French person does) and she decided that she wants to be aware of the amount of work that goes into every slice of bread she eats. In reality, that means that she bakes her own bread – without exceptions. Are you impressed yet? Because it’s only getting better.
Every Sunday, Léa is busy. Busy with what? With cooking and baking and embracing the day. Just like you’d find in a petite French bistro, Léa makes a soup, a quiche and that love-filled homemade loaf of bread. Guess what scene I ran into when arriving at her beautiful, cosy home on a Sunday afternoon? That’s right. On the stove, hot soup was bubbling away, the baguette was already safely stored in a container and she was holding a freshly baked quiche in her palms – I am shaking my head in sheer amazement as I’m writing these lines!
And this is not just any quiche but a very special potato-and-cauliflower-filled one with homemade whole wheat pastry – by now, I don’t expect any less from her. Whatever she puts on the table is very likely self-made and topped with a sprinkle of sesame seeds: Léa is a person who pays attention to detail. By the way, the most adorable detail during our cooking session was her adorable puppy named Olive (the second name option was Omelette) who joined us in the kitchen while secretively hoping for some crumbs to fall her way. Is her dog the reason we know each other? Maybe.
What I really like about Léa’s cuisine is that it’s honest, down-to-earth and traditional. She may adapt some recipes and get inspired by different ingredients, but essentially, she cooks like her grandmother used to. Léa grew up in the French countryside which entailed eating simple yet tasty dishes, spreading butter on thick slices of bread, picking fresh produce from her parents’ vegetable patch, searching for eggs in the chicken shed and witnessing where meat comes from. She cooks with integrity and belief because she cares about the wider context of her food: the nutritional content, the environmental impact, the sentimental value, the moral responsibility. She eats many fresh fruits and vegetables, combines nuts, legumes and grains, juggles around with grainy mustard, jam and dried herbs with such nonchalance while cheekily devouring the chai brownie I brought her!
The reason she chose this dish lies in her dreamy childhood. Ratatouille is something her mother used to cook. It is a traditional dish from the South of France and can be enjoyed as either main or side dish. In France, there is a popular expression: Madeleine de Proust. Marcel Proust was a French novelist who coined this phrase: for him, madeleines had a very nostalgic, sentimental value because during his childhood, it seemed like someone was constantly baking these little French butter cakes. When I asked Léa what her favourite dish to cook is, she answered: Mon Madeleine de Proust? C’est la ratatouille!
I’d like to add that Léa is an extremely able cook (if not even pastry chef) and isn’t it lovely that for People Who Cook she chose not to make a super extravagant bœuf bourguignon or coq au vin but a very simple yet delicious childhood-memory-filled ratatouille? I could go on and on and on about her heartful chef`s mind but let’s not get lost. We have her recipe to share with you, after all:
Prep Time: 5 min
Cooking Time: 25 min
For this recipe you will need:
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 red onion, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
1 red paprika
1 juicy tomato
pinch of salt
pepper to taste
1 tbsp herbs of Provence
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame seeds
fresh bread to serve
- In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and fry the onion, shallot and garlic.
- In the meantime, skin the aubergine and chop into squares. Slice the courgette and tomato as well as the paprika and add all veggies to the pan once the onions have softened.
- Add the herbs, give everything a good stir and allow to simmer until all vegetables are soft and cooked through.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve with a sprinkle of sesame seeds – Léa knows what’s good!
- Serve with freshly baked homemade baguette and butter. (okay, if you’re not hanging out with a French baker, go get a loaf of bread around the corner – or try to bake your own, you won’t regret it!)
A little spoiler: Léa has a vast recipe book in her head with hundreds of pages that are marked, crumbed and stained with sauce, ranging from savoury to sweet. That is why we have many more cooking sessions planning featuring traditional French cuisine, so get used to her beautiful face (as well as the dog’s), you will see them many more times on this channel!
Thank you, Léa and Olive, for hosting me on such a wonderful, autumny, sunny Sunday!
I had such a great time featuring recipe talks, French history lessons, buttered baguette and dog cuddles and am looking forward to repeating it soon. Let’s make pastry, oui?