I’ve been vegetarian for close to forty years. During that time I’ve flirted with veganism but then reverted back to vegetarianism for various reasons. As a family of four we have always been veggie. Our children, now aged 22 and 19, have never expressed any interest in tasting
a protein source that sports a face. We never forbade it, so fair play
to them.

Veganism is on the rise, both here and abroad, particularly amongst the younger generations, many of whom see with fresh eyes the damage done to human health and the balance of nature by animal-based diets – not to mention all the aspects of cruelty to the sentient beings involved.

A few months ago, our daughter became a committed vegan. This means that on her visits home from uni we need to take a little more care with family meals. It’s not such a problem as you may think.

This is a Provençal staple I discovered as a teenager on my first visit to France. My understanding of it in those days was courgette, onion and aubergine softened in olive oil and garlic then stewed in a tomato and herb sauce. Some recipes add sugar but decent tomatoes give enough sweetness. In the late 80s/early 90s Hastings’ iconic seafront bar (then called The Pig in Paradise) served a version of it as a popular lunch option: ‘Rats & Rice’.

Ratatouille is easy to prepare, versatile, flavoursome and full of good energies. You can add pretty much any veg you like to the base ingredients and that’s essentially what I do. The more colours the brighter the rainbow!

Fresh basil with oregano and course black pepper is my seasoning of choice, with a very small pinch of sea salt. I also like a glug of (vegan) French red wine for authenticity and some chopped sun-dried tomatoes for extra zing. The version in the picture makes use of a lot of produce we grew on our allotment this year and have stored.

Potential ingredients

• Olive oil

•  Crushed garlic

•  Onion

•  Courgette

•  Aubergine

•  Mushroom

•  Peppers (all colours)

• Tomatoes (fresh, tinned or both)

• Celery

• Broccoli

• Broad beans

• Carrots

• Beetroot

• Vegan stock cube or powder

•  Tomato puree

• Sun-dried tomatoes (chopped)

• Fresh basil

• Seasoning of choice

Method

1. Soften onion, courgette, aubergine and peppers in a pot or pan with olive oil and garlic. Meanwhile parboil thinly sliced carrots in a separate saucepan and when ready add stock to this before pouring all into the main pot. Add tomatoes, some puree, and top up with boiled water as needed before adding all the other chopped vegetables. Add herbs and seasoning, red wine if desired, and simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring and topping up with liquid now and again to obtain the consistency of a thick stew. Delicious with rustic bread and can be eaten cold, too.

n To give this meal a festive seasonal twist, buy much more of the ingredients than you need for the dish and donate the surplus to www.hastings.foodbank.org.uk