Winter Ratatouille With Wheat Berries

Bowl of pearled wheat with tomato sauce and winter vegetables.

Calling this a ratatouille might be a stretch, we know. And even though Wikipedia’s definition is forgivingly vague (“Recipes and cooking times differ widely, but common ingredients include tomato, garlic, onion, zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper and some combination of leafy green herbs”), I feel like maybe we should have just called it a winter stew?

Anyway, here it is – and it’s rather divine. Not particularly French, perhaps, but divine nonetheless. Soft cubes of butternut squash in a creamy tomato sauce, boosted with kidney beans, kale and warming spices. Served over a bed of chewy wheat berries, it’s one of those comforting dishes that this time of year asks for time upon time. We like to make a big batch on a Sunday evening and then rest assured that we have at least a few dinners prepared for the week right there. And as with most stews, this one only gets better after a day or two, when the flavors have really blended and the creaminess somehow multiplied.

I got into cooking for real in my early 20’s. Before then, I wasn’t one to spend much time in the kitchen unless it involved baking, and I wasn’t that into the more elaborate forms of vegetarian cuisines at all but preferred rather simple food. Oh, why am I sugarcoating things? I was one heck of a picky eater. Annoyingly picky. But then something happened. I’m not sure if it was moving to my own place and all of sudden having to fend for myself or if it was those 5 months of camping my way through New Zealand and Australia with my cousin and cooking up curries and dals on a camping stove every night, but I all of a sudden realized how much I loved cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. As part of that, I discovered legumes are fantastic and not gross at all (which I’d been convinced of), and a whole new chapter of my life begun. When Mike and I met a few years later, our interest in food was one of the first things we realized we had in common (our first conversation included topics such as ginger and Indian cuisine). Anyway, long story short: ratatouille (the more traditional version) was one of the first dishes I felt like I mastered, and it was my go-to dish whenever cooking for someone else for several years. I served it over tagliatelle, white rice, potatoes and farfalle, but truth to be told, I think my favorite combination to this day is the one below – with wheat berries. And that’s not just something I say because it’s a really sustainable choice and I can’t control my desire to get people to choose green alternatives (as you can see, I’m not in a denial but fully aware of my issues) but it’s actually true. The wholegrain-y feel and chewiness pair so well with the creamy sauce and leaves you feeling satisfied for a long time. Have we promoted this recipe enough now or should I throw out there how it’s also awesome to bring for lunch the next day? We’ll leave it at that. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

För recept på svenska, klicka här: Vinterratatouille med matvete

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 small butternut squash (~800 g)
2 small onions (~200 g), chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp bouillon powder
780 g crushed tomatoes
6 dl wheat berries
150-200 g dino kale
5 dl cooked kidney beans, rinsed and drained (~375 g)
1 dl creme fraiche of your choice
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
Canola oil, salt and black pepper

Instructions

  1. De-seed and peel the squash. Then cut it into 1.5 cm cubes and set aside.
  2. Sauté the onions in a splash of canola oil in a pot over medium heat for about 8 min. Add in garlic, and sauté for another few minutes. Add in squash cubes, give it a good stir, and then pour in the crushed tomatoes. Add 5 dl water as well as bouillon powder and give it a good stir. Bring to a simmer, and allow to cook for 20 min or until the squash is almost soft.
  3. Cook wheat berries according to package instructions.
  4. Chop the kale.
  5. When the squash is almost done, add in kale (a little at a time, so it has time to wilt down and doesn’t overflow the pot) and beans. Add in creme fraiche, chili powder and oregano. Stir, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Allow to simmer for another few minutes before you take the pot off the heat.
  6. Serve wheat berries topped with sauce immediately.

If you’re looking for more dinner inspiration, we collected a whole bunch of yummy recipes in this post: Our Top Warming Winter Recipes.


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