Ratatouille à la Remy: THE MOVIE:Pixar’s 2007 animated film faced two great challenges; how to make an endearing main character out of a rat and how to make computer-generated food look delicious. Director Brad Bird’s team succeeded in both tasks, by creating Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) and his signature dish, a take on the classic Provençal ratatouille niçoise.
We follow Remy’s culinary evolution from a countryside rat dreaming of recreating the dishes of his hero Chef Auguste Gausteau to protege chef in the late Gusteau’s famous Parisian restaurant – albiet under the cover of a toque blanche atop his hopeless new best friend Linguini (voiced by Lou Ramono). Controlling Linguini by tugging his follicles, Remy must cook for the feared and terrifying restaurant critic Anton Ego (voiced marvelously by Peter O’Toole). Remy throws a curveball and cooks Ego a simple ratatouille. After one bite, Remy’s plate of simple perfection brings Ego back to his mother’s kitchen and softens the old grump, leading him to write after discovering his chef was an anthropomorphic rat: “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
As well as attending culinary classes in the San Francisco area to understand the workings of a busy kitchen, the film-makers worked with gourmet chefs in both the US and France. Producer Brad Lewis interned at the world-renowned French Laundry restaurant in California and worked closely with its celebrated chef Thomas Keller. It was Keller who invented Remy’s dish, which he named a confit biyaldi in tribute to the Turkish origins of ratatouille.
* 3 red peppers, de-seeded and chopped into bite-sized chunks
* 4 tomatoes, quartered
* 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
* Salt and pepper
* 2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
* 1 courgette, finely sliced
* 1 small thin aubergine, finely sliced
* 2 tomatoes, finely sliced
* 1 yellow courgette, finely sliced (optional)
* Olive Oil and Balsamic vinegar
* 1 clove of garlic, finely grated
* 1 sprig of thyme, leaves picked
Put the peppers, tomatoes and garlic into a roasting dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes at 200 degrees (180C fan/Gas Mark 6) until the peppers have softened but not blackened. Transfer to a food processor and add the thyme leaves. Whizz until a sauce has formed, adding a drop of water if necessary. Add more salt and pepper as needed. Transfer the sauce to a roasting dish (we used a 22cm round dish) and set aside.
Meanwhile, finely slice the vegetables into very thin rounds that are no more than half a centimetre thick. Neatly arrange the veg on top of your sauce, alternating until you have a beautifully circular pattern of colours. In a bowl, add two tablespoons of olive oil, the grated garlic, the thyme leaves and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour this as evenly as you can over the top of the vegetables. Cover loosely with tin foil and cook for 45 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes, so that the vegetables are wonderfully golden.
Let the ratatouille cool before serving it drizzled with balsamic vinegar alongside roasted chicken, couscous or even simply on its own with some good, crusty bread.
* Aoife McElwain is a film fan and food writer. Her blog can be found at icanhascook.wordpress.com
*This article was amended on October 18th, 2012. It originally referred to Peter O'Toole as "the late Peter O'Toole". We are delighted to confirm that Mr O'Toole is, in fact, alive and well.