Shakshuka is everywhere. In the last few months, the picture of eggs poached in a red sauce and served in an iron cast has become the most common thing I see on my Instagram. However, shakshuka has been around for ages; I am sorry to tell you, but Ottolenghi did not invent shakshuka. Somebody, centuries ago created this dish in North Africa, maybe in Lybia, maybe in Tunisia. Is it a Jewish dish? I’m not sure. But from his or her kitchen shakshuka travelled to the Middle East and became extremely popular in Israel, especially in Tel Aviv. However, as far as I know other countries like Turkey also have similar dishes and I know for a fact that Palestinians also love it. A Moroccan woman in Israel also told me once that shakshuka was the name of the sauce, and it did not need the eggs to be called like that.
Independently of its origin, shakshuka is now the trendiest brunch food in New York and London. In Tel Aviv it has been in the menus for decades. Almost every restaurant offers it, and there are thousands of varieties. However, I still love Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa, an extremely popular restaurant that serves excellent Lybian food in ridiculously big portions. Just don’t try to go on a Saturday morning as you will find it close: it is a kosher restaurant.
So here is my recipe for Shakshuka. No, is not a quick one so I recommend you to cook the sauce the day before or make a lot of it and freeze it (although it last for a week in tour fridge). Remember also that the heavier the pan, the better and that ideally you serve shakshuka in the pan.
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
4 red peppers (I prefer to use romano peppers) cut into 3 cm squares ( you do not need to measure them, is just my way to tell you not to chop them)
1 tin of good quality chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
½ teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
1 red dry chili ( I used ancho, but use any chili you have fresh, dry anything.. or don’t use it)
Salt and maybe sugar
To serve: You can serve this with a side of tahini sauce and bread ( Challah is the traditional Tel Avivi choice but feel free to use sourdough or even pita), you can top your shakshuka with feta cheese, zaatar, coriander, parsley… Anything you want!
How to do it?
As mentioned before, you can do this part the day before.
- Put the oil in a heavy pan with the peppers and a pinch of salt. Let the peppers cook for around 30 minutes at medium-law hit or until they collapse (that means until they are extremely soft).
- Add the garlic, the chilli ( If you used a dry chilli remember to soak it in boiling water before) and let them cook for two minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes. At this point try the sauce and if you think is too sour add a pinch of sugar.
- Let the sauce simmer for ten more minutes over a medium heat. The add the paprika, cumin, and salt.
- If you are preparing this in advance, let the sauce cool down and then put it in the fridge.
- Heat the sauce over a medium flame until bubbling. Use a cast-iron pan or a heavy pan for this.
- Make four holes in the sauce and crack the eggs on them. You can use a wooden spoon to mix the whites with the sauce slightly… however, do as you wish.
- Cover the pan with a lid and let the eggs yolks cook as much as you want. However, in a really good shakshuka, the yolks should be runny.
- Turn the heat off, put any topping you are using in the shakshuka and serve it immediately on the table with bread to soak in the sauce and tahini* on the side.
Remember, you are having an Israeli style brunch so the idea is that everybody in the table can share the shakshuka… Double dipping is the right thing to do!
*Mix the tahini paste with lemon juice, garlic (optional) and cold water until it gets the texture you wish. Do not serve the paste directly from the jar!
Not in the mood for cooking?
These are my favourite places to get shakshuka in London:
Honey & Co http://honeyandco.co.uk/ ( you need a reservation)
Roni http://www.ronisonline.co.uk/ ( No reservation needed, three locations and please also try the bagels!)
The good egg http://www.thegoodeggco.com/ ( long lines but worth it! Also try the sabih)