Shakshuka, such a fancy name isn’t it? It is a Moroccan dish but resembles our very own egg curry. We make egg curry in an onion and tomato sauce too but our eggs are boiled and placed in the sauce, whereas in Shakshuka they are served sunny side up. Surprisingly I heard of Shakshuka from my daughter! I looked it up and found myriad recipes online, each different from the other. I realized that the recipe for Shakshuka is like most Punjabi dishes- versatile and you can incorporate whatever you like or is handy.
I am an Eggetarian or Ovo vegetarian which means I eat eggs but no meat. The eggs I need to meet my protein requirement. By the way, I have found that eggs are more vegetarian than veggies! The eggs we get in the market are not fertilised and hence have no life in them, they cannot hatch into a chick!! Well, this argument could go on and on!
The best thing about shakshuka is that it is made out of staples in your pantry of course with the exception of the peppers or the cilantro which are optional. This means you’re pretty much ready to make a fantastic meal anytime. If you are rushed in the mornings and want to make it for breakfast, the tomato base can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. The next morning you can reheat the sauce and add the eggs. Your healthy, nutritious and flavorful Shakshuka is ready.
Shakshuka literally means ‘mixed.’ It invites innovation and as you can put anything in an omelette, you can put it in shakshuka too. Shakshuka is a yummy combination of eggs, tomatoes, and spices well-liked across the Middle East and North Africa and now getting popular across the globe. It is mainly a breakfast dish but then I had it for lunch. I love this recipe because it is like most of my other recipes; easy, healthy, and gratifying. The eggs can be hard or runny, the sauce can be thick or thin, the vegetables can vary from red, yellow or green peppers, peas, mushroom, cheese, and the dish can be made vegetarian, dairy, or meat. Anyway, it’s always scrumptious.
Shakshuka is perfect with your morning cuppa or your 11am hunger pangs or in your lunch box, dinner and every meal in between. Soak it up with bread, or roti, naan or parantha, it tastes as good.
I tried the combination of pepper, red chilli powder, and hot green chilli as I like my food a bit fiery and spicy. I used a single fresh green bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow; it doesn’t matter).
Recipe for Shakshuka
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large pepper thinly sliced
2 fresh slit green chilli
2 to 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or mashed
1/2 tablespoons red chilli powder or paprika
Mixed herbs and chilli flakes( optional)
4 fresh basil leaves (optional)
5 large tomatoes, blanched and chopped finely
Salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper
Large tbsp minced cilantro or parsley
2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese or cottage cheese
Tortilla, Crusty bread, Pita Baguette or flatbread for serving
Heat olive oil in a skillet or pan over high heat until simmering. Add onion, sauté and add the garlic. Cook till pink and add the pepper. Stir and sauté until vegetables are slightly brown. Immediately add tomatoes, green chillies, red chilli powder or paprika, chilli flakes, mixed herbs, fresh basil and stir to combine. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes, then season with salt.
Whole blanched and peeled tomatoes are any day better than canned pureed ones. I peeled them after blanching and chopped them finely. I like these whole peeled tomatoes as they allow you to adjust the texture to suit your needs. This makes the cooking part easier and has a brighter colour and flavour.
Now that you’ve got yourself a wonderful sauce that can be made well in advance, or even frozen for later, you can complete it into a meal, with a few eggs. I broke the eggs first into a bowl and then poured them into the sauce as I was not sure if my yolks would be intact. I live in a tropical country and the heat makes the yolks runny. Just make four indentations in the sauce with a spoon or spatula, then break eggs directly into them or break into a bowl and then gently slide them into the pan.
Cover the pan, and let it simmer and steam just until the whites are barely set and the yolks are still golden and soft. Season eggs with a little salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and cook until egg whites are barely set and yolks are still runny i.e. 8 to 10 minutes. I wondered if I could remove the egg intact onto a serving bowl but to my surprise, the egg was set nicely and it was easy to remove one serving or egg at a time with a flat spatula. You can finish cooking the eggs on the stovetop or place them in an oven for 10 minutes, it’s your choice.
Sprinkle the cilantro or parsley, along with cottage cheese or feta. Shakshuka must be served hot with Tortilla, Crusty bread, Baguette, Pita or flatbread or roti for sopping up all the flavorful sauce.