Tumbet

I first met Jake Hodges when he was still working at the River Café alongside Sam and Sam Clark and they all left to open Moro. Shortly after that, now over 15 years ago, Jake branched out on his own to open Cigala, in Bloomsbury. That is where I had tumbet recently, a wonderful Mallorquin vegetable dish often described as Spanish ratatouille. There is a resemblance between the two dishes but tumbet includes potato and all the ingredients are cooked separately and then baked together. Which, as it happens, is how I make ratatouille. Jake serves tumbet as a main course over a generous portion of limp, lightly cooked spinach. I first encountered tumbet in Deia and couldn’t wait to get home to develop my own recipe; it’s a bit of a palaver, but really worth it. Serve it hot, warm or cold, alone or with anything you like from sausages to roast chicken, kebabs or steak. It is a very moreish dish (sorry Jake, couldn’t resist the pun), so you will eat more than you expect.

Serves 2-4

Prep: 35 min

Cook: 60 min

2 aubergine, 600g total

2 large courgettes

2 onions

2 garlic cloves

olive oil

6 vine/ripe tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tsp chopped fresh oregano or ½ tsp dried

2 large potatoes

2 pointed red peppers

     Slice the aubergines and courgettes in 1cm thick pennies. Dissolve 2 tbsp salt in a mixing bowl and immerse the slices for minimum 20 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Halve, peel and finely chop the onions and garlic. Soften gently in 3 tbsp olive oil in a spacious, lidded frying/sauté pan. While the onions soften, boil the kettle. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Count to 20, drain and rip off the skins. Cut out the cores and chop. When the onion is slippery soft, stir in the oregano then tomatoes with 1 tbsp ketchup (for sweetness and je ne sais quoi). Simmer gently, covered to begin with, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until thick and sauce-like. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes and cut in 1cm slices. Saute slowly in batches in 5mm of oil, turning after about 3 minutes, cooking golden brown. Arrange the slices in the bottom of a heat resistant dish; in Spain it would be an earthenware cazuela. Quarter the peppers, discard the pale inner ridges and wash away the seeds. Cut into 1cm x 5cm ribbons. Cook the peppers in the remaining potato oil until slippery and soft and browned in places. What seems an impossibly large amount will flop down considerably. Transfer to absorbent kitchen paper to drain.

Finally, cook the courgette and aubergine slices slowly, turning often, in batches, adding more oil as necessary, until soft and golden brown. Rest on kitchen paper as each batch is done, then arrange on top of the potato slices. Add peppers and pour over the tomato sauce, encouraging it down and between the slices. Cover the dish snugly with a double fold of foil and bake at 180C/gas mark 4 for 30 minutes. Allow to stand covered for 5-10 minutes before serving, or cool to room temperature. Great for barbecues and al fresco meals.