Community Cook – Dimity’s Garden Ratatouille

Words by Kim Yates

DimitiportraitThe benefit of cooking in Lakeside Drive Community Garden was that Dimity Foster, our local chef, could source a lot of her ingredients straight out of the ground. Within minutes, after a quick rinse, the produce would end up in the heavy cast iron pot. What Dimity didn’t get to gather from the well-stocked pantry of the Community Garden, she sourced from her own produce garden in Palmerston.

Dimity has always enjoyed the garden, and attributes working there to her keeping good health. She has suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  ‘Gardening helps me forget’ she quietly states. ‘Years ago, I spent far too much time stressing, so I sought help. I wish I had done that sooner. I found someone professional away from my inner circle who was easy to talk to. Through a process of honesty, trial and error I changed my thought patterns. Particularly I found the medicinal benefits of eating a healthy, fresh, and organic diet, certainly has played a big part on who I am today.’ She exclaims with a warm smile.


Ratatouille manger à l’extérieur – a classic French dish – camp cooked with a twist.

  • 1/3 cup olive oil (not required in a non-stock pot)
  • 7 – 8 large tomatoes – add to boiling water for 5 minutes, easily remove skins
  • 2 med onions chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • Small knob of ginger chopped
  • 2 large eggplants cut into 3/4-inch cubes
    – black beauty may need salt wash if not picked fresh
    – Lebanese is best and don’t need salt
    – Local Thai eggplant which are ready when green
  • 4 to 5 medium zucchini cut into cubes
    – local trombone zucchini are great as they don’t breakdown, cut out the core, as you would a pineapple. Very versatile as you can grate for quiches, dice for stews or bake whole.
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3 yellow or red bell peppers ribs and seeds removed, cubed
    – Local chocolate capsicum, easy to grow in the NT
  • 2 bay leaves – fresh is best
  • 1/2 cup chopped Brazilian spinach or similar
  • Lemon thyme and basil to taste
  1. In heavy pot, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onions, stirring occasionally until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in eggplant and zucchini; season generously with salt and pepper;
  2. Add 3/4 cup left over tomato water, and simmer until vegetables are beginning to soften, stirring once, about 5 minutes. Stir in peppers; simmer, until softened, 5 minutes; and
  3. Stir in tomatoes, spinach and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in basil, serve.