Feta and ratatouille crumble

Sweet and succulent Mediterranean vegetables layered with salty, crumbly feta cheese are topped with a cheesy, soft crumble to bring you comfort and warmth on a cold and dreary autumnal evening.

I love ratatouille. Originating from Nice in France, it’s a traditional stewed vegetable dish made up of many of my favourite veggies. It’s so colourful, so healthy, and oh so tasty. I think it’s highly underrated.

My first memory of trying ratatouille was as a teenager. In the summer holidays, I often went round my friend Jade’s house and we’d eat whatever we could find in the kitchen cupboards; cold baked beans (still a fond snack to this day), pasta, soup and the like. But by far the most memorable was tinned ratatouille. Never once had I come across this creation. This rich, tomatoey vegetable goodness. We’d warm it up and eat it on its own while watching music channels. I always remember it being absolutely delicious, even out of a tin.

This version I’ve put together is a little on the naughty side; incorporating cheese and butter into the mix. But with four different vegetables, the good outweighs the bad.

Ingredients

  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 courgette, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 aubergine, chopped into small cubes
  • 2 peppers: I used green and orange, chopped into small chunks
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 80g feta
  • 120g plain flour
  • 65g butter, softened
  • 10g cheddar, grated
  • Handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
  • Plenty of seasoning

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes to an hour
Serves 3 with a side dish (or 2 greedy people)

Method

  1. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in the olive oil.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the aubergine and sprinkle over a teaspoon or so of salt to help it cook. Cook for three minutes or so.
  4. Tip in the peppers and cook for another couple of minutes.
  5. Drain the chopped tomatoes in a sieve to get rid of the watery liquid.
  6. Pour the tomatoes into the frying pan along with the courgette and basil and stir well. Lower the heat very slightly and leave to cook for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables soften.
  7. Turn the oven on to gas mark 5.
  8. While you’re waiting for the vegetables to cook, make the crumble. Pour the flour into a deep bowl. Chop the butter up until small chunks and tip it into the bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour for a few minutes, until they form a breadcrumb consistency.
  9. Tip the cheese into the bowl, add plenty of seasoning and mix the cheese in with the breadcrumbs.
  10. When the vegetables have softened, pour them into a medium sized baking dish and evenly disperse them along the bottom of the dish. Season well. Crumble over the feta cheese and top with the breadcrumb mix, making sure the cheese and breadcrumbs cover the ratatouille evenly.
  11. Put in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the crumble has browned on top.
  12. Serve with a side of vegetables, like sweetcorn or broccoli.

This recipe was inspired by Plum Kitchen’s ratatouille and goat’s cheese crumble

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Feta, courgette and chickpea salad

Cooked courgette ribbons, soft and succulent mushrooms, firm and filling chickpeas, and crunchy red onion make a tasty and healthy base for this warm salad. Cooked with a touch of cumin and topped with crumbly feta cheese, this dish makes a perfect light lunch. And, you can have it on the table within 15 minutes.

Feta, courgette and chickpea saladThis salad is a bit of a melting pot of cuisines. It came about from bits and bobs I had left in the fridge and cupboard.

Courgettes and mushrooms are two of my favourite vegetables. Their flavours are subtle yet satisfying and they’re incredibly versatile. They can be used in everything from curries to salads, on top of pizzas or in dips. They work well in this salad as they are soft and juicy.

The chickpeas and cumin bring exotic, Middle Eastern flavours and the richness of the feta cheese finishes the dish off delightfully.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 4 mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • ½ red onion, roughly sliced
  • ½ courgette, thinly sliced lengthways
  • 150g chickpeas
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 30g feta
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves one

Method

1. Put a large frying pan on a medium to high heat and pour in the sunflower oil.

2. Add the mushrooms and courgette and fry for two to three minutes. Mix in the onion and fry for another couple of minutes, until the onion begins to soften (but not too much; it’s better with a bit of bite).

3. Pour in the chickpeas and scatter over the cumin. Cook for another three to five minutes, stirring throughout.

4. Serve the mixture in a pasta bowl or on a plate. Crumble over the feta and season well.

Butternut squash boats stuffed with cous cous and feta

The sweet, soft roasted butternut squash and red pepper are juxtaposed by the sharp taste of the crumbly feta.  Combined with the filling and flavoursome cous cous, this dish makes for a healthy and hearty vegetarian dinner. 

This meal idea is based on a BBC Good Food recipe, substituting quinoa for cous cous. It’s not the speediest of dishes to prepare, as the butternut squash needs roasting for some time before being stuffed with the other ingredients, so it’d be best to make this on the weekend, or when you’re not strapped for time.

Stuffed butternut squash with grilled asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-sized butternut squash
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 100g feta, cut into cubes
  • 1 100g packet of instant cous cous (I used Ainsley Harriott’s Sundried Tomato & Garlic flavour)
  • 8 asparagus spears, or another green vegetable of your choice.
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into small squares
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Low fat cooking spray (some more olive oil will do if you don’t have any of this)

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Serves 2

Method

1. Turn the oven on to gas mark 6.

2. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds and score the flesh diagonally, both ways. Sprinkle the sage over both halves, pop them on a baking tray and drizzle over some olive oil. Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the flesh has softened.

3. Meanwhile, get the filling ready. Prepare the cous cous as per the packet’s instructions (usually pour into a bowl and pour boiling water over so it covers the grains, leaving some extra liquid to be soaked up. Stir well and leave for five minutes). When the grains have absorbed the water, fluff them up with a fork, and pour over the majority of the lemon juice, holding a little back, and drizzle over a little bit of olive oil. Mix the liquids in, so the cous cous remains fluffy and doesn’t dry out.

4. After 30 minutes, take the baking tray out of the oven and carefully place the chopped pepper at the side of the tray. Sprinkle half the rosemary over the pepper and pop back in the oven for 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, put the grill on to a medium to high heat. Chop off the bottom ends of the asparagus spears and place on a baking tray. Spray five or six times with the cooking spray, season and place under the grill for 10 minutes, or until nicely brown, turning them every now and again with some tongs or a fork.

6. When the squash and peppers are cooked, take them out of the oven. Tip the peppers into a bowl with the cous cous, spring onions, feta, carrot, and the remaining rosemary and lemon juice. Stir and season well.

7. Press the cous cous filling onto the squash with a metal spoon, and pile it as high as you can! I found that I had some filling leftover, and you could always serve this on the side so it doesn’t go to waste.

8. When you’re ready, put the squash back in the oven for 10 minutes, to allow the cous cous and the feta to begin to golden.

9. Take the asparagus out of the oven and serve neatly on the side of a large plate.

10. Take the squash out of the oven and place it carefully (so the cous cous doesn’t spill out all over the place) on the plate.