Selasa, 18 September 2012

A recipe for Shakshuka (shakshouka), or eggs nested in spicy tomato sauce

Shakshuka / Shakshouka
You'll find the recipe for this wonderfully simple and flavoursome basic shakshouka at the end of this post. The colourful selection of hot peppers and tiny tomatoes is from our greenhouse.  

I went to Israel back in June (see disclaimer at the end of this post), and fell in love with shakshuka (also spelled as shakshouka). Shakshuka is a northern African dish, originally from Tunesia or Algeria (depends who you ask from) that has become extremely popular in Israel over the last decades. We were told on several occasion that this is one of the two dishes that every Israeli man knows how to cook (I cannot recall what was the other one. Anyone?). I'm sure Israeli women are pretty good in making this dish as well, but yes, it's mainly men who boast who can make and eat the most fragrant and spicy shakshuka for breakfast :)

As with many traditional dishes, there are as many recipes around as there are cooks.  The hugely popular Yotam Ottolenghi has a version in his second bestselling book, Plenty, using onions and plenty of bell peppers and you can see him making his version of shakshuka in this video recipe on Guardian's website. The guru of Jewish food, Claudia Roden, includes a recipe for shakshouka in her epic The Book of Jewish Food. She notes that  

"This name us used for all kinds of dishes involving fried vegetables with eggs broken on top. A variety of vegetables, from potatoes and broad beans to artichoke hearts and courgettes, are used in Tunesia, where the dish originated, but it is the version with onions, peppers and tomatoes that has been adopted in Israel as a popular evening meal".

Claudia Roden also includes two variations in her book - one with spicy merquez sausage, the other with white Bulgarian cheese.  In another excellent book, Tamarind and Saffron, Claudia Roden provides two recipes, one with the merquez sausage, the other one with peppers and garlic instead of onions, which also happens to be my Allium of choice for this recipe.

Janna Gur - a popular and well-known Israeli food writer whom we had a pleasure of meeting twice during our trip to Israel (she's standing on the far left on this photo) - has included a recipe and several variations of shakshuka in her beautiful The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey. Janna claims that there are just three mandatory ingredients - tomatoes, hot sauce and eggs, and her basic recipe includes garlic, fresh and canned tomatoes, seasonings and eggs (note: NO peppers!). She also includes varieties with onions and peppers, with spicy merquez or small cocktail sausages, "the Israeli Army shakshuka" with canned corn, baked beans and sausages, as well as the mild tomatoless shakshuka with spinach and feta.

Last, but not least, there's a recipe for shakshuka in Rebbetzin G. H. Halpern's rather humorously written Confessions of a Kitchen Rebbetzin, using plenty of bell peppers (green, yellow and red), garlic cloves, eggs and spices. Rebbetzin goes as far as claiming that shakshouka is probably the dish Israelis enjoy eating most:

"What Israelis really dig is Shakshuka - a well seasoned North African dish of eggs in hot tomato sauce. The best and nicest (and most barbaric) way to eat it is straight from the pan, no utensils needed, by dipping thick chunks of simple bread."

Here are some of the shakshukas we  enjoyed during our trip to Israel*. First off, the large Shakshuka at restaurant Cordelia (Chef Nir Zook), Old Jaffa, Israel. Challah bread (on the background) is perfect for scooping up the spicy tomato and egg dish:
 Shakshouka for breakfast @ Cordelia (chef Nir Zook), Jaffa, Israel

Here's a "single portion" shakshuka at Manta Ray, Jaffa, Israel - about to be devoured by the colourful Ms Marmite Lover. Note the thin layers of grilled cheese on top of the shakshuka - wonderful, if not traditional, addition. Another fellow traveller, David Lebovitz, mentions shakshuka in his extensive post about Israeli breakfast.
 Shakshouka for breakfast at Manta Ray, Jaffa

As the eggs play such an important role in this dish, it's best to use the freshest organic/free-range eggs you can afford. Luckily, our backyard chicken keep us well stocked with eggs at the moment and of course, I used eggs from our own chicken. Here are our Orpington chickens, Buffy and Fluffy, earlier this year. They're excellent layers:
Buffy & Fluffy (Orpingtons)

My recipe below is pretty basic - just garlic, tomatoes, seasonings and eggs. Although you can use fresh tomatoes during the summer time, I'll include canned tomatoes in the recipe - the fresh tomato season is coming quickly to an end here in Estonia, and you wouldn't want to use the flavourless winter supermarket tomatoes here. You'll find links to fancier and more elaborate versions below. Somehow I prefer this dish to be very basic.

As hinted above, you need a good bread - no pita bread (that's for eating hummus!), but a nice challah or a bloomer or a crusty country bread to scoop up all the shakshuka from the pan!

A simple shakshuka recipe 
(Shakshuka ehk teravas tomatikastmes küpsetatud munad)
Serves one

1 Tbsp oil
1 large garlic clove, crushed
200 g chopped tomatoes
a generous pinch of chilli flakes or a scant teaspoon of harissa
a pinch of ground cumin
a pinch of ground caraway seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs

Heat oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and fry gently, until garlic is golden.
Add the chopped tomatoes and the seasonings, stir, cover and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the tomato sauce is well flavoured and slightly thickened. Taste for seasonings - add more chilli or other spices, if necessary.
Using a spoon, make two dents into the tomato sauce and break an egg into each one. Sprinkle some salt on top and heat for another 5-6 minutes, until the egg white is thickened and the egg yolk is half-cooked (if you prefer your egg yolk fully cooked, cover the pan or transfer it under a hot grill for a few minutes.

Other foodbloggers writing about shakshouka (in English): 
Kitchen Parade (September 2012; Alanna hosted me generously - and fed me, of course - in June 2008. Do check out her blog, if you're not yet familiar with it)
The Wednesday Chef (September 2006)
Smitten Kitchen (April 2010; Deb crumbles feta cheese on top of her shakshouka)
The Bojon Gourmet (October 2011)
The Leftover Queen (May 2012)
The Shiksha in the Kitchen  (July 2010)
A Sweet Spoonful (March 2012, incl. fennel!)
Cook Republic (May 2011)

Other foodbloggers writing about shakshouka (in Estonian):
Ise tehtud. Hästi tehtud. (August 2011)

 * Disclaimer: I spent six days in Israel in late June/early July as a guest of a non-profit social start-up Kinetis, more specifically their Vibe Israel programme. This particular trip hosted five international food bloggers and writers, introducing them to the multifaceted and pluralist Israeli culture and cuisine. 

See other posts about my trip to Israel.