So we invested in a real, grown up dining table. I am getting so old getting excited about a table runner and reduced plate mats – there is no hope left. However, this did mean – my first dinner party! Even more exciting! (Told you I was old). My parents and my brother and his girlfriend joined James and I for my very first attempt at Shakshuka!
What is shakshuka then? Sounds like a noise rather than a word – but Yotam Ottolenghi‘s book Plenty (filled with delicious recipes) tells me it’s a North African dish with many variations, but nearly all will include a peppers/onions/tomatoes mixture with baked in eggs on top. It is ideal for brunch (I took that with a pinch of salt), and can be served in individual pans (who has 6, or even 4, individual pans?) or in one large pan. I clearly didn’t follow this too closely, but I feel like that’s pretty ok with this kind of dish. It is a mishmash of whatever you have, served whenever and however you want!
I cooked mine up in 2 pans so there was an egg for everyone, with a salad, some perfect roast potatoes (coming to the blog soon!), garlic bread and some feta to crumble over the Shakshuka. It wasn’t very expensive, like some Ottolenghi recipes can be, fairly easy as you can prepare the tomato mix well in advance, and went down an absolute treat.
Plenty is filled with amazing recipes, so it’s safe to say Ottolenghi’s new book Plenty More is in my shopping basket!
Serves 4 generously
Ingredients 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
180ml light olive or vegetable oil
2 large onions, sliced
2 red and 2 yellow peppers, cut into 2cm strips
4 tsp muscovado sugar
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped coriander, plus extra to garnish
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp saffron threads
pinch of cayenne pepper
up to 250ml water
8 free-range eggs
salt and black pepper
In a very large pan dry-roast the cumin seeds on a high head for 2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar and herbs and continue cooking on a high head for 5-10 minutes to get a nice colour.
Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavoursome. (You can prepare this mix well in advance).
Remove the bay leaves, then divide the mix among 4 deep frying pans, each large enough to take a generous individual portion. (I used two large frying pans). Place on a medium heat to warm up, then make two gaps in the pepper mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a very (!) gentle head for 10-12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with coriander and serve.
Some add preserved lemons, feta or different herbs and spices. This can easily be readjusted to suit your needs – and eaten at any time of day or night!