Recipe: Provencal vegetable tian

Tian of Provencal vegetables, a little French flavour

Tian of Provencal vegetables, a little French flavour - Credit: Archant

Emma Crowhurst takes some inspiration from Provence

This week I want to introduce you to a dish that, like the Moroccan Tagine, takes it name from the pot in which it is cooked.

The Provencal Vegetable Tian is cooked in a tian, an earthenware dish of Provence, which is actually used for both cooking and serving.

The classic dish is a flattened cone, wide at the mouth and narrow at the base. It is traditionally glazed on the inside, and unglazed on the outside. It is shallower than the cassole, which is the earthenware vessel characteristic of the Camargue and Languedoc. The cassole is the classic dish used to serve cassoulet. The shape has become less definitive, though the earthenware material remains key.

The dish, tian, has also changed over time. An 18th century dictionary describes it as “a lean stew.” A modern tian usually has no added liquid, and is cooked until the liquid in the ingredients has evaporated. In Provence, the dish may be made with vegetables alone, but also with lamb, fish, or egg added to vegetables. Goat’s cheese is a common ingredient, usually sprinkled over after the main ingredients are all assembled.

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Tian can be finished as a gratin in the Provencal style. Typical ingredients in tian– and in ratatouille – are aubergines, onions and peppers.

More associated with Provence than other regions of France, tian is baked in an oven whereas ratatouille is usually cooked on the top of the stove. Ratatouille will always be a bit more saucy but a tian can be made to look more beautiful and a bit less rustic looking.

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Preheat oven to 200c/gas mark 6 .

Sweat the leek and onion with half the oil in a heavy pan until soft and translucent, add the garlic and sweat for another five minutes. Allow it to begin to colour slightly at the end of the sweating.

Season the onion and leek mix with salt and pepper.

Lay this mix in your shallow earthenware dish.

Top with your sliced vegetables, laying alternate aubergine, courgette and tomatoes. Season with plenty of salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are not really ripe and juicy.

Scatter with half the olives and half the thyme. Drizzle with two tablespoons oil. Repeat layering and seasoning with remaining vegetables. Drizzle with remaining oil, and cover loosely with foil.

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil. Press vegetables down with a spatula, and bake until the vegetables are tender and edges are well caramelised, about 45 minutes more.

This goes really well with barbecued food, especially lamb, or serve as a vegetarian dish.

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