Shakshuka

Tunisia is a small country in the very north of Africa. Shakshuka has it's origins here and has become a staple dish in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt. It's also a popular dish in Israel. Thank you Tunisia!

Shakshuka is one of those dishes that you wish you had known about for longer as soon as you discover it. Once you've made it a couple of times you'll need no recipe it's really a fly by the seat of your pants type creation.

It's spicy, red and saucy and usually served with a soft homemade bread to wipe every last bit of luscious red liquid from your plate. Fragrant with cumin and peppers and scattered with green herbs, you'll find yourself going back to it again and again and again.

The sauce is easily made in advance so all you need to do is heat it up till it's blipping happily on the stove top and then carefully slip your eggs into the simmering red sauce.

I like to make a version that is a combination of Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe (from Plenty) and and some other common twists. This gives a simple yet flavourful dish We eat it regularly and we never seem to get tired of it. Every time I make it I want to take a photo of it, it's a seriously photogenic meal.

You can add or subtract ingredients to make this your own. Spinach and a sprinkle of feta cheese are a couple of additions that seem to commonly find their way into this in our house. Sometimes a big dollop of harissa gets plopped in.

My husband loves corriander so if I am feeling charitable I will add some fresh corriander to the mix, I am afraid I'm one of those people that thinks that corriander tastes like soap, so if I add it in I have to pick out every little evil piece of it.

Use this as a base for your own creation and enjoy this with a nice soft bread like the pane veloce in the photo or a good loaf of bread from your local baker. You want something that can soak up all those spicy juices so you don't waste a single morsel.

Shakshuka

1/2 tspn cumin seeds
a small splash of olive oil
1-2 large onions sliced finely
2 red or yellow peppers or a combination of both.
4 tsp muscovado sugar
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tblspn tomato paste
1/2 to 1 tspn paprika
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped or two cans of diced tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
half tsp saffron threads (optional)
pinch to 1/4 tspn cayenne pepper
1 cup of water
6-8 free-range eggs
salt and black pepper

Dry roast the cumin for a couple of minutes in a heavy bottomed pan.

Drizzle in a little oil and then add the onions, cook gently till transluscent.

Add the peppers and garlic, sugar, bay leaves, thyme and parsley and cook until the peppers are soft.

Add in the tomatoes, tomato paste and spices and a little water if needed to make a saucy consistency.

Simmer on a low heat for around 15 minutes until the ingredients start to amalgamate a little. Add more water if you need to to keep the ingredients saucy and not too dry.

Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.

Make a hollow in the sauce with a large spoon and slip an egg into the hollow. Rather than putting your egg straight into the sauce break it into a cup first then slide it in gently
If you happen to get a little piece of shell or an egg that's not so flash you don't ruin your whole dish doing it this way.

Continue to simmer on a low heat with a lid on your pan until your eggs are cooked. If you don't have a lid you can put this in the oven for a little while to set the eggs.

Serve bubbling and hot when the eggs are cooked to your liking.
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