Peel the aubergines. Half-peel the courgettes in stripes to give a green and white zebra-like effect. Cut both vegetables lengthwise into pieces as thick as your thumb and keep separate.
Bring 2litres (3½pints) water to the boil and plunge in the tomatoes having first removed the stalks. After 2–3 seconds remove them and refresh under the cold tap. Peel them and cut them in half, then press each half in your hand to remove the seeds and excess moisture. Chop into large dice and set aside on a plate.
Peel the onions and slice them finely into rounds. Set aside. Remove the stalks from the peppers and cut them in half vertically. Remove the seeds and slice downwards into fine strips. Put on one side with the sliced onions.
Once the forced labour of preparing the vegetables is over, they are ready to be cooked. Put 3tablespoons of oil in each of 2 shallow sauté pans and when it begins to smoke put the onions and peppers in one and the tomatoes in the other. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle the tomatoes with a pinch of thyme. Cook the tomatoes for only 2–3 minutes over a brisk heat, then transfer them to a plate and keep warm. Cook the onions and peppers gently over a low heat for 15–20 minutes, without letting them brown, then add to the tomatoes.
Put 5tablespoons of oil in one of the pans and cook the aubergines for 7–8 minutes over a brisk heat, stirring frequently. Drain in a colander over a bowl and return the oil to the pan with 2tablespoons of fresh oil. Heat and add the courgettes. Let them brown for 7–8 minutes, then add to the aubergines in the colander.
When you are ready to serve the ratatouille, mix all the cooked vegetables in a saucepan and stir well with a wooden spoon. Heat through, season with salt and pepper and at the last moment add the finely-chopped garlic, parsley and basil.
Dry white or young rosé wines (Provence, Coteaux de Nice)