Timelessness is a virtue. Classic literature, or works of art that have stood the test of time, tap into some eternal source of truth; and, without exception, the same can be said of iconic edible pairings. Consider, for example, the humble bangers and mash, peanut butter and jelly, warm bread and oozy cheese, rice and (just about) anything. Timeless dishes marry years of tradition with contemporary palates and stay ever-relevant; they adapt to trends, age gracefully and yet seem to never age at all.
Shakshuka, underwhelmingly defined as a dish of eggs baked in a tomato-based sauce, transgresses boundaries and transcends contexts. There are no limits to the number of appropriate situations in which to consume this dish. Modern cafes around the world serve this Middle Eastern classic as a menu staple, making it the perfect Sunday brunch that’s doable at home (no messed up poached eggs); there have been some who eagerly devour it in the evenings, a la ‘Breakfast for Dinner’. If you’re hung over, Shakshuka is the perfect comfort food that strikes the perfect balance between rich and refreshing.
While someone somewhere is reading this and feeling indignant about how ~traditional~ shakshuka should be, we reckon New York Times has made a pretty swell rendition – plus it’s vegetarian-friendly!
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
⅛ teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes with juices, coarsely chopped
¾ teaspoon salt, more as needed
¼ teaspoon black pepper, more as needed
5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)
6 large eggs
Chopped cilantro, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving
- Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook gently until very soft, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes; stir in cumin, paprika and cayenne, and cook 1 minute. Pour in tomatoes and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; simmer until tomatoes have thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in crumbled feta.
- Gently crack eggs into skillet over tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer skillet to oven and bake until eggs are just set, 7 to 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with hot sauce.
VEGAN: Omit the eggs and feta, and throw in some black/broad beans or chickpeas.
MORE SUBSTANTIAL: We love to add sliced lamb sausages or chorizo to this recipe to really round it off. Consider going easy with the feta if you take this option so it doesn’t become too heavy. Or: add lemon to give it a zesty kick.
MORE COLOURFUL: Throw in some baby spinach and rocket with the tomatoes to fill up your daily quota of greens!
MOP IT UP: We understand it’s meant to be eaten with challah bread, but if you can’t get your hands on that, a porous bread like toasted and buttered turkish or sourdough will work just fine in mopping up the excess sauce.
This recipe can be as simple or complex as you want it to be; just remember that the key is in the spices. This one-pan dish means it’s perfect for sharing with a flatmate, and it also means there’s minimal mess involved (though we can’t guarantee that). Shakshuka is a dish that shouldn’t be eaten in a hurry; it demands enough time to be enjoyed and appreciated.
All the classics are timeless for a reason – you can revisit them over and over again, and it doesn’t ever tire. On that note, what variations to the shakshuka dish are you dying to tell us? What would you change around? Do let us know!
Image from kcet.org