During my recent juice fast, I kept gravitating towards foods that were red in color. I came across a picture of a simple yet super yummy-looking dish named Shakshuka. I try to take note of the messages my body send me especially during a fast and make an effort to respond to them. I must have been seeking out the nutrients or proteins this dish reminded me of and I wanted to make this dish as soon as I broke fast.
Shakshuka is traditionally made up of eggs poached in a sauce of onions, chilli peppers, tomatoes and often spiced with cumin and paprika. I researched online and settled on this one recipe that I felt would be a good one to start with. The original recipe called for two tablespoons of canned tomato paste. We try not to eat tomatoes out of a can so I skipped it. (If you're interested to know why, here's why.) The dish was plenty flavorful without it and I didn't feel like it missed the paste. Getty photographer, BunnyEatsMan, who was shooting this cooking session for Getty Images was very complimentary of this dish and marveled at how satisfying Shakshuka is despite being a vegetarian dish.
I added spinach this time. You can add other vegetables like mushrooms, potatoes, even sausages to this. The possibilities are far and wide and fun to create.
Taste, taste, taste frequently to make sure there's a right amount of salt and spices. Otherwise, it will get too bland. (On a completely different note, see how I've mastered THE half smile? BunnyEatsMan is an awesome coach I must say!)
One lesson learned on making a nice presentation of the eggs -- level the sauce with a spatula first before cracking the eggs on top. That way, with a flat surface, they stay nice and evenly distributed across the top instead of sliding off to the sides or crowding into the neighboring yolk space.
This dish is a staple of Tunisian, Libyan, Algerian, Moroccan and Egyptian cuisines, typically served in cast iron or a tagine with bread to mop up the sauce. It is also now popular in Israel, where it was introduced by Tunisian Jews and Maghreb Jews, hundreds of thousands of whom immigrated to Israel during the 1950s. In place of bread, I served the Shakshuka with some leftover Injera my buddy Selam gifted us. Injera is a sourdough-risen flat bread with a unique, slightly spongy texture. Traditionally made out of iron-rich and gluten-free teff flour, it is a national dish in Ethiopia and Eritrea. There is a wonderful hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Anaheim, CA which serves wonderful Ethiopian foods where Selam obtains her supply of this delicious handmade Ingera from.
As you can see, we are quite a spontaneous mish-mash of cultures here. The Ingera was a great vehicle to the Shakshuka, moping up all the yummy, slow-stewed red sauce.
Take note on cooking time for achieving perfect over-medium eggs. Check often and take it off the heat once all the whites are cooked and when you see the yolks just barely cooked on the outer ring. That way, once off the heat, the yolks will continue to cook just a little more as you get ready to serve.
Makes 3 servings (unless you're really hungry and eat 3 eggs each, then this recipe makes 2 servings)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium brown or white onion, peeled and diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
- 4 cups ripe diced tomatoes
- 3 handfuls of baby spinach (optional)
- 1 tsp chili powder (mild)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy!)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 large eggs
- 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro (for garnish)
- Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium. The cast iron pan I used is 10.25 inches. Slowly warm olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant.
- Add the bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes over medium until softened.
- Add tomatoes to pan, stir till blended. Add spices, stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till it starts to reduce. At this point, you can taste the mixture and spice it with cumin and paprika according to your preferences. Add salt and pepper to taste, or more cayenne pepper for a spicier shakshuka (be careful with the cayenne... it is extremely spicy!). Add spinach and mix well.
- Spread the tomato mixture level with a spatula to make a flat level surface. This helps distribute the eggs evenly across the surface and prevent the eggs from crowding. Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce. I usually place 4-5 eggs around the outer edge and 1 in the center. The eggs will cook over-easy style on top of the tomato sauce.
- Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer on low for 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced. Keep an eye on the skillet to make sure that the sauce doesn't reduce too much, which can lead to burning and that the eggs don't get overcooked.
- Some people prefer their shakshuka eggs more runny. If this is your preference, let the sauce reduce for a few minutes before cracking the eggs on top-- then, cover the pan and cook the eggs to taste. I've seen some scramble the egg whites into the tomato mixture and leave the whole yolk over-easy too. Be creative, do what feels right for you.
- Garnish with the chopped cilantro. Shakshuka can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I prefer it for lunch or dinner because I like light breakfasts and this is a little too heavy for mornings. Accompanied by a nice garden green salad, this dish makes a good healthy lunch. If you're gluten-intolerant, serve with warm Ingera or your favorite gluten free bread. Otherwise, a warm crusty baguette or pita that can be dipped into the sauce.
- Wash your hands and enjoy mopping up the sauce and oozing poached eggs with your bread. Have fun!