Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can find. I love eggs in all forms: fried, scrambled, poached and boiled. When I want something different though, shakshuka is my staple. Poaching eggs in a flavoursome, aromatic tomato sauce is all the rage in South Africa. It is warming, comforting and nutritious. This dish is ideal for the days you wake up feeling in the mood for a simple culinary challenge.
Shakshuka has been a part of the cuisine of North Africa and the Middle East for many years. They have many variations on this theme depending on the country in which it’s made, with sauces varying in spiciness, sweetness and sharpness. You can add preserved lemon to your shakshuka – or why not try harissa paste, olives or even sausage? This recipe is also a great side dish at the brunch table. Most importantly, have loads of crisp sourdough bread on hand to mop up the juices!
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 medium brown or white onion, peeled and diced
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 medium green or red bell pepper, chopped
• 4 cups ripe diced tomatoes, or 2 cans (400 ml each) diced tomatoes
• 2 tbsp tomato paste
• 1 tsp chilli powder (mild)
• 1 tsp cumin
• 1 tsp paprika
• A pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste if you like it spicy!)
• A pinch of sugar (optional, to taste)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 5-6 eggs
• Freshly chopped coriander (optional, for garnish)
1. Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on a medium heat. Slowly warm olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion and sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften.
2. Add garlic and continue to sauté until mixture is fragrant. Add the bell pepper and sauté for 5-7 minutes until softened. Add tomatoes and tomato paste to pan, and stir until blended.
3. Add spices and sugar (if using), stir well and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until it starts to reduce. At this point, you can taste the mixture and spice it according to your preferences. Add salt and pepper to taste, more sugar for a sweeter sauce, or more cayenne pepper for a spicier shakshuka.
4. 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 centre. The eggs will cook “over easy” style on top of the tomato sauce. Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced.
5. Keep an eye on the skillet to make sure that the sauce doesn’t reduce too much, which can lead to burning. 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.
6. Garnish with the chopped coriander, if desired. Shakshuka can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. For breakfast, serve with warm crusty bread or pita that can be dipped into the sauce.
Fatima Bheekoo Shah is a wife, mother, food blogger, foodie and breastfeeding activist – finally answering her calling to be a writer.