Somewhere between ratatouille and caponata lies the Spanish Pisto Manchego, (pedestrian translation: slow cooked summer vegetables) cooked without hurrying to a lambent jamminess, in contrast to the toothsome integrity of each separately sauteed vegetable in a Provençal ratatoille nicoise or the pickle-icious unctuousness of the small dice caponata.
I use Elizabeth Luard’s recipe from The Food of Spain and Portugal: a regional celebration. She notes:
The essential ingredients are the aubergine, the garlic and the olive oil – everything else is negotiable.
6 TBS olive oil
2 firm aubergines, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, skinned and chopped
1 Spanish onion, finely sliced
2 red peppers, de-seeded and diced
2 medium courgettes, sliced
450g (1 lb) ripe tomatoes scalded, skinned and chopped
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
salt, hot pimentón (Spanish paprika) or chilli powder
Warm 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the diced aubergines, sprinkled with a pinch of salt, until they soften and take a little colour. Be patient: they first soak up oil like a sponge, then they release it again, then they begin to fry a second time. Transfer to a sieve placed over a bowl to catch the drippings. Add the rest of the oil to the pan, fry the garlic and onion, salted lightly, until just caramelised and transfer to the sieve. Add the drippings to the pan. Fry the peppers, transfer them to the sieve, put the drippings back in the pan, then repeat with the courgettes.
Reheat the remaining drippings and add the tomatoes. Bubble up, add the oregano and season with salt and pimentón. Add the vegetables from the sieve. Cook gently over a low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, turn up the heat and give it a good bubble – the finished dish should be jammy rather than watery. Serve at room temperature, as part of a selection of tapas, as a main course, pop a fried egg on top or a handful of flaked, pre-soaked salt-cod or salt-cured tuna – mojama.
It’s worth reading Rowley Leigh’s Financial Times column which discusses the differences between ratatouille and caponata: he provides a rather involved but intriguing recipe for the latter. I love both but I also adore Pisto Manchego: celebrate the difference.