I was first introduced to the wonders of shakshouka in Israel, where it seemed this deliciously simple breakfast dish was everywhere. Indeed it seems to be incredibly popular, in a vast number of variations, not only in Israel but also in northern Africa where it is said to originate. Like Mexican huevos rancheros, shakshouka combines the innate magic of eggs with spicy tomato sauce to create a truly heavenly breakfast dish.
The ingredients for this variation are very easy to find, with the exception of the chillies, which will likely require a bit of searching. You will also find that Polish chilli peppers are often confusingly sold as ‘peperoni’ (respect to those who remember the bad old days of Polish pizza, when pepperoni pizza meant pizza with hot chillies). These bad boys are not actually very naughty at all, which explains why this version calls for an entire chilli for each person. In fact, if you like spicy food, you could easily double this amount (but don’t hold me accountable for the results).
For the cheese, you can use real Greek Feta, or even goat’s cheese if you feel like splurging. I, however, am quite happy using Polish bryndza or the many varieties of Balkan crumbly, salty white cheese (ser szopski) that are widely available. Make sure to adjust the saltiness of your dish to the natural saltiness of your cheese – there is no going back from an over-salted shakshouka.
Serve with warm pitta bread to soak up the juices. If unavailable, go with a nice fresh loaf of ciabatta for a tasty, albeit geographically confused, alternative.
Shakshouka / Serves 2–3
1 small onion, chopped
2–3 chillies, deseeded, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp sugar
1 can tomatoes
100g crumbly, feta-type cheese
a handful of chopped parsley
To start off, fry the chopped onion in some olive oil for a few minutes until it softens. Add the chopped garlic, chillies and pepper and fry for about five minutes. Next, pour in the can of tomatoes, chopping roughly with your spatula (careful of squirting tomato juice!). Fill the empty tomato can about 1/3 of the way with water and add. Stir in the cumin, paprika and sugar, and allow the mix to simmer for about ten minutes. Season with salt. Turn down the heat and quickly crack open and top with as many eggs as you like, or that will fit in the pan. Cover with a lid or lay a sheet of aluminium foil on top. Allow the shakshouka to continue to simmer on medium-to-low heat for up to five minutes. When you remove the foil, the whites should be set and the egg yolks still juicy and plump. Top with the crumbled cheese and herbs before serving.