Ratatouille with Mussels and Lemon Balm
In a little twist to the usual ratatouille - vegetables in a tomato sauce - this has a few handfuls of fresh and plump Northumbrian mussels and a good dose of lemon balm rather than basil.
Lemon balm is a herb that is rarely used in modern day cookery but grows so well in any domestic garden. But with its surprising citrus fragrance and earthy taste, it is a natural herb to accompany shellfish. It is also brilliant in a lemon ice cream. If you can't get hold of any, use fresh basil instead.
Ingredient - Feeds 4
1 aubergine, cut into small chunks
2 courgettes, halved and sliced into chunks
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced into chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
6 handfuls of live mussels, cleaned
A handful of lemon balm or basil leaves, finely sliced
1 - Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the aubergine and cook, tossing regularly, until beginning to turn golden. Remove and set aside.
2 - Heat up the remaining tbsp olive oil and add the peppers and courgette. Cook, tossing regularly until beginning to soften and turn golden. Remove and set aside.
3 - Heat up the olive oil in a separate pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes then tip in the tomatoes. Bring to the boil, stir in the vinegar and cook for 10 minutes until beginning to reduce and deepen in colour.
4 - Tap any open mussels onto a hard surface. If they do not close, throw away. Put the mussels into the tomato sauce, put on the lid and cook for 5 minutes. If the mussels have not opened properly, throw away.
5 - Stir in the vegetables and heat through. Taste for seasoning. Sprinkle on the lemon balm or basil and serve with rice and/or crusty bread.