Tuesday, September 18, 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.


Cat Lady said...

Hi Pille! This is my go to dish when there is nothing in the cupboard (although I prefer it with lots of peppers). Especially good, i think, served at the table so you can dip your bread into the leftover sauce.

johanna said...

nice! there is a favourite breakfast of chris' - they call it a tunisian breakfast, but by the sound of it, this is exactly the same! yum! can't wait to try it!
in mexico, we have a similar dish, called huevos perdidos - the eggs get "lost" in the tomato sauce... but we crack them in whole, rather than frying them. i have been on the lookout for one of those beautiful small copper pans that are just enough for one serving... no luck so far! sending hugs and kisses!

Adi said...

I have a feeling the second dish is Israeli Salad- these are the two dishes my husband knows how to make (and the only two...!)

Alanna @ Kitchen Parade said...

Oh so funny that all these miles apart we both fell in love with the same dish at the same time! I still haven't made one with canned tomatoes, will try yours next! Very pretty, for sure!

Anita said...

ok, I know you are fibbing about your shakshouka experience, because when we were in Israel, we tried to find the restaurant Cordelia and could not. Our GPS insisted we were standing in front of it. We were not. We wandered for a long time, peeked down alleys, streets, pathways. We almost broke into someone's office accidentally. It just was not there. If you say you were there, I must also ask if you've visited Atlantis, Brigadoon, or Oz. Harumph!

(We did have shakshouka in our hotel, though... no doubt toned down, spice-wise, for the tourists, but yum anyway!)

Murissa said...

David Rocco has a similar recipe he calls Eggs in Purgatory.
Looks delicious and thank you for the recipe. I just found your blog and everything looks so delicious.

The Wanderfull Traveler

Sarah said...

Awesome round up of shakshaka history and recipes. Loved that you added cumin, one of my favorite spices. I also add fresh coriander(cilantro)to my shakshuka and leave the chilis out so the kids can eat it. I read that shakshuka is famous in Goa of all places- introduced by the Israeli travelers there.

Samantha said...

wow simply wow!!Looks bright, delicious and so very easy to make. Thanks you for the recipe.It's lovely!!

Anonymous said...

Shakshouka is a an arab food ! Known from gulf to north africa. Israeli stole another thing to arabs. They are good in stealing and with PR.

Caroline said...

This is just the kind of recipe I was look for to cook this weekend lunch. An awesome looking dish. Thanks for sharing :)

maxwell said...

Dear "Anonymous" - Pille did acknowledge the origin of the dish in the first paragraph. Like many foods from other places, countries like the United States, Spain, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Morocco, etc..often serve foreign foods as well, even though they didn't originate in those particular countries. I don't know if that means making a dish elsewhere qualifies as "stealing" it...or just means that they like to eat it there.

Anonymous said...

I love shakshuka and make it a bit different than you do, but yours sounds great too.
I wonder how "anonymous" can claim that the recipe is stolen.
Doesn't s/he know that Israelis are of all possible nationalities including Morroccans, Tunisians, Lybians, Egyptians, Yemenites, Algerians and so on and so forth?
Israelis don't need to steal anything. They brought everything with them from their old homes to their new home. Totally legit.

theundergroundrestaurant said...

Those are my breasts peeking jauntily over one of those plates! A fine pair even if I say so myself.
I blogged about a tofu shakshouka which is so nice, it's better than the egg version...

Unknown said...

This is a Tunisian dish

Anonymous said...

Libyan dish taken to israel by libyan jews

Anonymous said...

Libyan noy israeli like calling pizza chinese