I didn't even know what shakshuka meant till I opened Yottam Ottolenghi's book Plenty and found the recipe. Immediately, the picture arrested me. Of course we had to make it and once we did, shakshuka become a favorite in our house and among our friends.
We've made it again and again tweaking it just a little every time, adding one vegetable, or a spice till it was perfect for sharing.
Although there are several versions of this North African dish, the most common recipe involves eggs that are softly cooked in a hot skillet of spiced tomato and vegetable sauce. And the interesting combination of seasoning in which the eggs are cooked has stayed in our memory ever since we made it first. I mean, I had no idea that just adding saffron to the eggs would make such and interesting flavor!
We've tweaked the original recipe from Yottam a little bit adding an Indian flavor to the North African dish and hope that it will become a favorite in your kitchen too.
(adapted from Yottam's Plenty, serves 4-6)
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
3-4 tbspoon olive oil or vegetable oil
2 large onions, sliced
1 red and 1yellow peppers, cut into thin strips
bunch of greens
1/2 tspoon brown sugar
¼ tspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ tspoon cumin seed powder
¼ tspoon turmeric powder
2 bay leaves
4-5 curry leaves
bunch of chopped coriander and parsley
2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ tin chopped tomatoes
good couple of pinches of saffron threads
1 cayenne pepper
1/4 cup water
salt to taste
In a very large pan dry-roast the cumin seeds on a high heat for 2 minutes then grind them to a powder. Set aside
Add the oil and then temper it with bay leaves and curry leaves. Then add the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the peppers, turmeric powder sugar and half of the cilantro and parsley mix and cook for another 5 minutes.
Then, add the tomatoes, saffron, cumin seed powder, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 8-11 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a gravy consistency.
This mix can also be prepared in advance and the eggs can be added the day of the brunch/breakfast.
Now make gaps in the pepper mix and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a gentle heat for another 8-10 minutes, or till the eggs have set.
Sprinkle with leftover cilantro and parsley mix and serve with chunky bread.