In the blistering August heat I often don’t feel like eating meat or fish, and seek instead the light but satisfying comfort of gently stewed summer vegetables. This beautifully layered ‘gratin’ of fragrant summer produce – aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, underscored by onions, garlic and herbs – always hits the spot. You can bake it in the oven in the morning, before your kitchen gets too warm, and then enjoy it lukewarm or cold for lunch or dinner, accompanied simply by some fresh crusty bread or perhaps a plain herb omelette. This also makes a tasty side-dish for grilled or roast fish or meat. (Serves 6.)
4-5 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, halved and finely sliced lengthwise
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3-4 firm, ripe courgettes, sliced
2 aubergines, sliced
4-5 ripe tomatoes, sliced
a sprig of fresh rosemary and fresh thyme (strip the leaves off the stalks and chop them finely) or a large pinch each of dried Herbs de Provence
salt and freshly ground pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
Preheat oven to 180°C.
In a large frying pan, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook onions and garlic on medium heat until soft (about 10 minutes), seasoning them lightly with salt, pepper and a small pinch of herbs. Spread these evenly over the bottom of an oven-proof dish and set aside.
Slice all the other vegetables evenly (about 5 mm thick) and lay them out in neat rows on top of the onions: a row of courgettes followed by a row of tomatoes followed by aubergines, and so on. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and the remaining herbs and drizzle with another 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until the vegetables are soft. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with lemon juice and a little more olive oil, to taste. Eat hot, warm or cold.