Shakshouka Baby!

I love food that is rooted to a particular place and time in your mind.  One dish that fits that bill for me is Shakshouka; an Israeli dish that I believe originated in Tripoli.  Shakshouka is a one pot meal, I do love a one pot meal as you may know, and it’s essentially yellow and red peppers and eggs poached in a thick paprika spiced tomato sauce.

I spent a year in Israel and learnt to cook Shakshouka while I was there.  It was an eventful year but a happy experience which gave me an insight into a country of contradictions.  I loved the food; the mixture of Eastern European heritage food; schnitzel, ghoulash, rugelach (sweet pastries filled with cream cheese or chocolate) and Arabic food; falafel, baba ganoush, fresh pitta, labenah and za’atar and ful medames (spicy fava beans – why can’t I write ‘fava beans’ without thinking of Hannibal Lecter and a good Chianti..)

I loved the way that food seemed to unite the country. I’m not trying to simplify the situation in Israel in any way, but food is a real unifying force in the country; or it seemed to be to my foreign and possibly naive eyes.  I studied at a large university during that year so I had the chance to meet people from all backgrounds and all religions. The food I ate with Jewish and Arabic friends was often exactly the same.  That seemed to be a very hopeful thing to me. Shakshouka epitomised that idea to me of food uniting people, or of being some sort of common ground, as it’s a staple in Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria as well as being generally thought of as the national dish of Israel.

There’s a restaurant in Jaffa, the old port of Tel Aviv, called Doctor Shakshouka and it’s legendary amongst Israelis.  Jaffa is a beautiful old medieval port which is part picturesque stone shady squares lined with terracotta pots brimming with tumbling geranuims and  lazy cats stretched out in the Mediterranean sun, and part decrepit port with  mid-terrace buildings shored up with thick wooden poles jutting out at all angles onto the path and adjacent roads.  I saw one such building give up the ghost entirely one day and crash into the ground quite unexpectedly in a cloud of dust, brick and rubble.  It’s that kind of place.  Doctor Shakshouka is a large affair with a hectic kitchen, mis-matched tables, yellowing newspaper clippings lining the wall and a constant stream of customers, all possibly musing over the fact that absolutely everything sounds better when it’s prefixed with ‘Doctor’.

Serves  2-4

·         2 large onions, sliced
·         2 fat cloves garlic, crushed
·         2 red and 2 yellow peppers, sliced
·         2 tins of chopped tomatoes
·         1 tspn cumin seeds
·         1 tspn each of smoked and sweet paprika
·         4 eggs (or as many per person as required)
·         Generous glug of olive oil
·         Good pinch of sea or rock salt
·         Chopped fresh coriander and parsley (or whatever you’ve got handy – chives or thyme are equally good here)

1.       Gently heat the oil in a large frying pan or hob proof baking dish.  Add the cumin seeds and paprika and stir in the heat for a minute or two.
2.       Add the onions, garlic and peppers, season with the salt  and leave to soften for around five minutes, stirring occasionally to stop them sticking to the pan
3.       Add the two tins of tomatoes and stir, turn up the heat a little and simmer for around 20 minutes
4.       The eggs are gently poached in the tomato base so turn down the heat, make a little well for each egg and carefully pour each one in.  They’ll take a bit longer than regular poaching so keep an eye on them to get them to your chosen eggy consistency – runny yolk for me please!
5.       When the eggs are done to your liking sprinkle on the herbs and serve straight away with warm, crusty bread.



  • I made this all the time in college! My friend taught me how, and it was just so simple and tasty that it quickly became one of my go-to easy meals. My recipe is a tad different though, subbing just tumeric for most of those spices.

  • It’s so simple isn’t it, part of its popularity with me! I bet it was a great colour with turmeric.

  • So, here I am again! The link on UK Bloggers wouldn’t let me get to your blog. Glad you left your link, thought I’d drop by and say hello here! Your latest follower! xx

  • Hi Lin, thanks for following, that’s great. I hope you enjoy my blog. Just read your profile -stilettos in the kitchen – I doff my cap to you! x

  • Zoe

    I have never heard and tasted Shakshouka before. This is totally new to me. Nice to know that it is a vegetarian dish. Yum!

  • Ha ha loved the ‘Go to work on an egg clip’ Thats the way me and Stan do the crossword. I know why it’s called that now, oh how we laughed!!
    The basics of Shakshouka are the foundation of much of my cooking and never have I thought to drop a protein filled oval into it. This has opened my horizons, thanks Sarah. But for now I shall settle for boiled egg and wholemeal fingers
    Love Love Lola xxx

    • It’s a great clip isn’t it. Released I think for Lion Brand eggs just 4 years after egg rationing. Glad it made you both smile. I’m a creature of habit and this is the basis for most of my cooking too, I get withdrawal symptoms if I go for a couple of days without having something made from tomatoes, much be those Italian genes! Love to you x

  • Such a delicious looking dish Sarah. And the thought of dunking fresh crusty fresh into those yolks and that spicy sauce, mmmmmmmmm 😛

    Thanks for submitting it into my National Vegetarian Week Round-up.

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