Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Great British Chefs and Action Against Hunger

Pascal Aussignac's grilled lamb with ratatouille.

I'm going to break from the alphabetical write-ups just this once (or more if I like, it's my blog) to tell you about an amazing charity. Please keep reading, it won't be as boring as that might sound. Promise.

Action Against Hunger provides live saving assistance and restores self-sufficiency to millions of people all over the world. You probably know from reading this blog that I have quite a passion for food and eating, and as a reader of this blog (regular or otherwise), I'm guessing that you do too. Action Against Hunger/ ACF International are a global humanitarian organization committed to ending world hunger, working to save the lives of malnourished children while providing communities with access to safe water and sustainable solutions to hunger. Now that sounds like something we could all get on board with, doesn't it?

A few weeks ago, I won the Nom Nom Noms - a Masterchef style competition for food bloggers held at the wonderful Cookery School on Little Portland Street in aid of Action Against Hunger. Amazing companies have donated prizes to a raffle that YOU CAN ENTER HERE. For just £10 you could win a set of Wusthof knives worth nearly £700 or a Cuisinart food processor worth £300. There are restaurant meals, hampers, equipment and other food-related goodies galore. Last year, Richard and I won a meal for two at The Avalon and a Brindisa paella kit. Not bad for £20's worth of raffle tickets. Please donate a tenner (or more, if you want to increase your prize-winning chances) so that you can be entered into the draw to win a fabulous prize while giving money to a fabulous charity.

And, while you're at it, why not download the Great British Chefs Summertime app. Not only is it full of 105 delicious recipes from 21 of the top chefs in the UK, it also boasts some of the most beautiful food photography you'll ever see. You get all of that for £1.99 and ALL PROCEEDS GO TO ACTION AGAINST HUNGER. Aren't the people at Great British Chefs a lovely bunch?!

I made Pascal Aussignac's grilled lamb rack with ratatouille, just one of the fabulous recipes on the app the other day and I'm looking forward to making more.

This is my food photography. The photos on the app are much lovelier.

I’ve always loved ratatouille, from first tasting it on a family holiday in France, to making it in my first Home Ec class at school. So in love with its charms, ratatouille was an absolute staple of mine as a student. It was simple, rustic, cheap and nourishing and I could make a big vat of it that would last over three or four days. Perfect on top of a jacket potato or turned into vegetable lasagne, ratatouille is a versatile beast. I liked it best served simply with roast chicken or, even better, a lamb chop. So, naturally, I leapt at the chance to try Pascal Aussignac’s recipe for ratatouille with grilled rack of lamb as soon as possible.

My partner’s family came over for Sunday lunch to celebrate his mum’s birthday, which felt like the perfect excuse to give it a go.  I doubled the quantities to allow for the extra guests and set to work peeling, roasting and chopping. This is certainly not your average one pot rustic fare. This recipe requires a lot of processes and a lot of pans, but don’t let that put you off from having a go. I really loved the idea of oven roasting the tomatoes first, but I ended up adding a few extras than the recipe states. I adore tomatoes and, because of this, I tend to buy them in bulk whenever they’re on offer. This often means I have to use them up unexpectedly quickly, after discovering the ones at the bottom of the bowl are suddenly “on the turn”.

In fact, I am such a tomato-head that rarely a day goes by during tomato season when I don’t gobble up at least one or two as part of my lunch. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which, studies report, acts as a natural sunblock for your skin – good news indeed in the glorious weather we’ve been having. The amount of lycopene increases when the tomatoes are cooked (so tinned toms and ketchup do the job too), which is bad news for people following raw food diets, but fantastic news for my ratatouille.

The only other tweak I made to the recipe was to chop up the sage and chuck it back in the pot when I reheated it, as it seemed a shame to throw it away. I also cooked the lamb for slightly longer, as our guests preferred their chops blushing pink rather than ruby rare. I made some crunchy roast potatoes cooked in duck fat (well, it was a special occasion) to go with it.

The combination of intensely aromatic and garlicky ratatouille with soft, juicy lamb is a real winner. I might try oven roasting all the veg next time to save on washing up, as the weather’s too nice to spend much time elbow deep in hot soapy water. Either that, or see if I can offload the dirty dishes onto some other sucker. I’d rather be sitting outside, sipping a Bloody Mary.


  1. looks stunning victoria! off to buy my raffle tickets I'd nearly forgotten

    1. I have only just worked out that replying shouldn't involve starting a new comment. I'm an idiot and a luddite, but I always reply (see below). I've just been doing it wrong :(

  2. Thanks Fiona! Hope you win a raffle prize! x