a blog by Gemma Thomas.
When I first discovered shakshuka, about four or five years ago, I wondered how I had lived without it for so long. Growing up in Southampton, it was unlikely that I would have encountered this north African dish of poached eggs in spiced tomato sauce – they just didn’t have those kind of things there. Even when I first started making it, people would ask “shak-what-a?” Now, they are everywhere, with cafes across London cooking up their own versions; and we breakfast-loving types could not be happier.
Since giving up bread for lent, I have been spending a lot more time on breakfast; which is both a good and a bad thing. It has forced me out of my weekday routine of marmalade on toast, but it has made me late for work on a number of occasions. At the weekends, which, I also confess are a danger area for routines (mainly bacon sandwiches and eggs royale) have become a hotbed of kitchen experimentation, only with the luxury of more time.
Shakshuka is definitely a dish for the days when you have a lot of time, for it will take you the best part of 45 minutes to prepare and cook. For this reason, I have eaten it for supper more times than I have for breakfast, but it works equally well for each. I have no issue with large amounts of chilli and garlic at breakfast, but if this is not your thing, you can tone it down or leave it out entirely.
I have made a number of different versions of shakshuka, but in recent years, I always seem to make the same recipe, which I have adapted and tweaked from David Lebovitz’s. What I love about it is the addition of a number of different spices, which give it a complexity that sets it apart from other dishes that just use chilli. Added to this the sweetness from a little honey and the saltiness from more than a little feta, and you end up with a dish that surprises you with its many different flavour layers. For the greens, just use whatever is in season. If you’re allowing yourself some bread, serve it up with toasted pitta or some really good sourdough toast.
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 mild-medium red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground caraway seeds
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp turmeric
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp clear honey
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Handful shredded greens (spinach, kale, spring greens etc.)
100g feta, cut into small cubes
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, or chef’s pan, and cook the onions and garlic over a low heat until soft and translucent, but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the chilli, salt, pepper and spices and cook for a further two minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, honey and red wine vinegar and cook for 15 minutes over a medium heat until the sauce has thickened a little. Stir in the shredded greens.
Remove from the heat and gently stir the cubes of feta into the sauce, being careful not to break them up too much. Make six indentations in the sauce using the back of a spoon and carefully crack the eggs into them. Turn the heat back on to medium and cook for 10 minutes. To finish cooking the eggs, cover the pan with a lid and cook until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Three minutes should give a soft yolk. Serve in bowls.
Adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz. Serves 3-4.