When having friends over for weekend brunch, there’s nothing I love more than cooking up a hearty dish of Shakshuka. Traditionally, served in a cast iron pan or tajine, this meal-in-a-pan is my ideal kind of dish, predominantly because it’s a bonding dish made to share with friends, where everyone can dig in altogether with their chunky bread, and mop up the tasty spiced sauce. The fragrant cumin and spices also make the kitchen smell amazing – always a bonus when having guests over.
Shakshuka is essentially a dish of eggs poached (or baked) in a sauce of tomatoes, chilli peppers, onions, and spiced with cumin. It’s a staple of Israeli, Tunisian, Egyptian and Moroccan cuisines…and has long been a brunch staple in my house too. The key is achieving a wonderful, rich consistency for the sauce. The recipe below is one I manipulated from (my kitchen guru) Yotam Ottolenghi’s version, but feel free to add more spice, depending on your taste buds. I also often like to bake mine as opposed to poach the eggs as it takes less time. To mix it up a little, I sometimes like to add feta cheese on top, or other different herbs and spices. Either way, it’s a beautiful feast for the eyes on any brunch table.
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 3/4 cup light olive oil 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 cilantro, plus extra to garnish
- 6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- half tsp saffron threads
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 Cup of water, if needed
- 8 free-range eggs
- salt and black pepper
What to do:
- In a very large pan, dry-roast the cumin seeds on a high heat 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 heat for 5-10 minutes to get a nice color.
- Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking if you need to add water you can do so, to achieve a pasta sauce consistency. (I usually don’t need to). Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavorsome. (You can prepare this mix well in advance if you want to save time.)
- Remove the bay leaves, then divide the pepper mix among 2 or 3 deep skillets or cast iron pans. Place them 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 gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a very very gentle heat for 10-12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. An alternative here is to put them in a pre-heated oven and bake for around 6-8 mins until the eggs just set. (I usually like my egg yolks to be still a little runny)
- Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with rustic bread.