Shakshouka is a delicious breakfast or brunch meal made from a spiced tomato sauce and eggs. Kind of like the North African equivalent of a fried breakfast, albeit much healthier, it’s considered a fantastic hangover cure. Once the sauce is reduced, you crack the eggs into it so that they poach in all the spices. It’s a similar idea to oeufs-en-cocotte (baked eggs), but with a much stronger flavour.
‘Shakshouka’ is an Arabic word meaning ‘a mixture’. The name really fits the dish because there’s a seemingly infinite amount of ingredients that go into it. Also, the base that you make for the eggs is pretty variable. The first recipe I found for shakshouka, years ago, had about ten spices and five different herbs, as well as garlic, chilli and ginger! There are some beautiful variations you can do on the standard egg and tomato shakshouka, including the addition of merguez sausages or cheese. In the Yemen, it’s served with a dollop of zhoug, a scorching green chilli paste.
Fresh tomatoes make a huge difference to the lightness and freshness of this meal. Chopped fresh tomatoes, or tinned tomatoes, usually have quite a lot of acidity, so it’s important to cook them down until they start to reduce their natural sugars. Otherwise, the sauce will be a bit sharp and tangy. It’s a bit quicker to use a tin, so if you’re in a hurry then use tinned plum tomatoes. Cook them whole and break them up with a spoon about 5 minutes in and reduce for a further 3-4 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. This makes them sweeten much quicker.
Traditionally, this is a breakfast or brunch that’s served to a whole family or group of friends. The whole frying pan is placed on the table, so that people can spoon individual portions over bread and partake communally in its deliciousness. It’s a very social meal!
Shakshouka is eaten in almost every country across Northern Africa and the Middle East. It’s no surprise, then, that there is a lot of contention about what constitutes the original or most authentic recipe. Even within countries, people argue that their mum or their grandma used the truly original method. For me, one thing that’s so beautiful about the spirit of this dish is its flexibility, it does taste different every time you make it but every variation is as delicious as the next.
WHAT YOU NEED
1 onion, sliced thinly
7 medium sized vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
2 pointed red or green peppers, thinly sliced and halved
4 free range organic eggs
1-2 red chillis, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
a sprig of rosemary, leaves removed from stem
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the spice paste:
3 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
A glug of extra virgin olive oil
Chopped coriander leaves, to garnish
Crusty toasted bread, to serve
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 15 mins
- Heat some oil in a frying pan on a medium heat, enough to just cover the bottom of the pan. While it’s heating, prepare the spice paste by pounding the garlic and ginger together in a pestle and mortar. Add the spices, one at a time, mashing to incorporate. The mixture should be a little powdery and dry, add a glug of oil to turn it into a paste.
- When the oil is hot, add the bay leaf and fry the onions with a pinch of salt until they turn translucent. Add the peppers and stir. Mix in the spice paste and stir until fragrant.
- Add the rosemary leaves chopped tomatoes and cook down until most of the liquid has released and the mixture has formed a thick sauce, almost a paste. The amount of time this takes is dependent on the amount of water in the tomatoes, but it’s usually about 5 minutes.
- Turn the heat up high. Make four holes in the sauce, around the edge of the pan. Crack an egg into each hole, the mixture should sizzle slightly and the egg should turn white on the bottom as it hits the pan. Be careful not to split the yolks!
- Let the mixture cook for 2-3 mins, until the whites of the egg are almost fully cooked but still a little translucent on top. As they are cooking, turn the grill onto a high heat.
- Finish the tops of the eggs off under the grill for 1-2 minutes, depending on how well done you like the eggs. As a minimum, the whites of the eggs should be fully cooked on top. Personally, I like the yolks to be runny and kind of melt into the sauce and the bread when you pop them.
- Serve on crusty toasted white bread, garnish with coriander leaves and black pepper, plus more chilli if you like!
LF – this dish is naturally lactose free
GF – use gluten free bread to serve
V – the sauce itself on toast is delicious
Ve – this dish is naturally vegetarian