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Shakshuka

I ate shakshuka the other day for the first time in yonks sitting in a sunny window seat, in a Turkish cafe, in a city that I don’t know. I’m doing it more and more often right now, going to places I don’t know.  I forgot how much I love it, I used to take myself off all the time, when I was young, but I haven’t for the longest time now, such is life and family and routine and commitments and work and mum stuff. I have holiday to burn through at work and my routine is less routine now, so I have these windows of opportunity and although conflicted, I’m starting to sort of like them – the freedom, and definitely the anonymity. Am I allowed to say that? I think so.

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I also forgot how much I love shakshuka; peppers and onions in a tomato sauce, spiked hot with paprika and coriander, eggs baked into the sauce.  It’s a one pot wonder, so easy to make but really impressive. My kind of cooking, no faff – but a high return in flavour.  I ate shakshuka first in Tel Aviv, at the infamous Dr Shakshuka’s in the port of Jaffa,  it’s eaten all throughout the Middle East, claimed by everyone, not defined by religion and segregation, in a place so defined by religion and segregation, I like that.

From my window seat I watched a punky couple, she with amazing blue hair, he in bondage trousers, kissing long on the corner before they went in their separate directions, a quick turn back to look at one another; softer than their appearance would suggest.  The suited up lunchtime crew bustling around getting stuff done, Arabic guys in leather jackets smoking and laughing, gesticulating wildly, deep in animated conversation on the pavement.  Cool student girls in their vintage 80s clothes. Hipster boys with jeans even skinnier than mine and some pretty impressive beard action for ones so young, and an old lady with a cat in a pushchair (that’ll be me in the not too distant future). I got a wink through the window, from a guy who looked like he hadn’t seen a shower since those vintage 80s clothes were new.  Hey, I’ll take that, his cheek made me smile.

The eggs in the shakshuka were perfect – a runny yolk, the holy grail of this dish and something that I’ve never managed to achieve.  I’m fussy about eggs, what’s the point of a hard-assed yolk? None. End of.  I asked the chef how he managed it and he shared his secret, he was so chuffed, I liked that too, recognition for a job well done. Get the sauce bubbling hot before you break the egg in, he told me, and once the white starts to turn white finish them under the grill. A revelation.

Little almond and orange pastries and ultra-sticky honey baclava were bought, to eat in the street with takeaway coffee.  Maybe someone was watching us?  From another sunny window seat, eating our Turkish pastries, peering through shop windows, blending into the landscape?

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Shakshuka

Serves 2-4
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish

What you will need

  • 4 peppers (slicecd)
  • 1 onion (or a handful of shallots, sliced thin)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped finely)
  • 2-4 eggs
  • 2 tins tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 stock cube (or heaped teaspoon of stock powder)
  • olive oil (for frying and drizzling)
  • fresh coriander (chopped)

Instructions

Step 1 Warm some olive oil in a large, flat pan and soften the peppers, garlic and onion for about five minutes
Step 2 Add the paprika and stock, coat all the veg.
Step 3 Pour in the tinned tomatoes, stir well. Leave to bubble gently for about 20 minutes
Step 4 Warm the grill. Make a well in the sauce and break in the eggs. When the white starts to turn white remove from the heat and finish under the grill until they're cooked to your liking.
Step 5 Sprinkle with fresh coriander. Serve with flat breads.

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