Shakshouka or shakshuka is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, often spiced with cumin. In its present egg and vegetable-based form it is of Libyan, Egyptian, Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan origin, and is now popular among many ethnic groups of the Middle East and North-Africa.
Shakshouka means “a mixture” in Egyptian Arabic, Tunisian Arabic and Libyan Arabic . Some believe that it was first known as chakchouka, a Berber word meaning a vegetable ragout,.Another belief is that it hails from the Yemen where it is served with a dollop of zhoug, a fiery, green paste that brings tears to the eyes. Also “shakshek” means “to shake”, in both Egyptian Arabic and Tunisian Arabic, Berber and Hebrew, giving a possible Punic origin to the name of the dish.
Shakshuka is a staple of Egyptian, Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan, cuisines, traditionally served in a cast iron pan or tajine as in Morocco with bread to mop up the sauce. It is also popular in Israel, where it was introduced by Tunisian Jews, tens of thousands of whom immigrated to Israel during the 1950s. Because eggs are the main ingredient, it is often on breakfast menus, but in Israel, it is also a popular evening meal. It has been said to challenge hummus and falafel as a national favorite, especially in the winter. According to some food historians, the dish was invented in the Ottoman Empire, spreading throughout the Middle East and Spain, where it is often served with spicy sausage. Some versions include salty cheeses,but traditional recipes are very basic, consisting merely of crushed tomatoes, hot peppers, garlic, salt, paprika, olive oil and poached eggs.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp harissa paste (see below for recipe), or shop-bought
2 tsp tomato purée
2 large red peppers, cut into 0.5cm dice (300g in total)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of saffron
5 large, very ripe tomatoes, chopped (800g in total); tinned are also fine
4 medium free-range eggs
1 tsp of chopped coriander or chives
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the harissa, tomato paste, peppers, garlic, cumin, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Stir and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes to allow the peppers to soften. Add the tomatoes and saffron, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for a further 10 minutes until you have quite a thick sauce. Taste for seasoning.
Make 4 little dips in the sauce. Gently break the eggs and carefully pour each into its own dip. Use a fork to swirl the egg whites a little bit with the sauce, taking care not to break the yolks. Simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes, until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny (you can cover the pan with a lid if you wish to hasten the process). Remove from the heat, leave for a couple of minutes to settle, garnish with chives or coriander.Then spoon into individual plates and serve with the labneh or yogurt,bread and rocket
Harissa is a Tunisian chili paste and is commonly used in the Maghreb region to season stews and other dishes. Depending on the type of chili the paste can be very hot!
Makes 1 small jar, approximately 200ml
1 red pepper
½ tsp coriander seeds ,
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp caraway seeds
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, roughly chopped (90g in total)
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 hot red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
½ tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt
Roast coriander, caraway, and cumin seed in a dry pan for about 2 minutes and ground in a pestle and mortar. (The smell of this will be incredibly fragrant!)
Put the ground spices, all the other ingredients, and olive oil in a mixer or food processor. Blend until you get a thick paste. Fill into a sterilized jar and put a bit of olive oil on top to prevent drying-out. Keep in the fridge.