Help, All I Know How to Make is Spaghetti: Shakshuka

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There’s something about a hot breakfast – toast excluded – that suggests you’ve got your life in order. That’s the supposition that underpins this fortnight’s recipe: shakshuka, a dish that originates from North Africa but has also cemented its position in Middle Eastern cuisine. Therefore, not only is it a hot breakfast, but it’s also part of a cuisine – a style of cooking – as well. And that style would naturally transfer to your overall self-image. The winning points don’t end there either. Just like last fortnight’s recipe, shakshuka is also a one-pot recipe – again with the ‘low effort, high yield claim’ to culinary glory.

The word ‘shakshuka’, translated from the Maghrebi Arabic language of North Africa, means “a mixture”. Traditionally, this mixture is of eggs poached in a spiced sauce of tomatoes, capsicum, onions, and garlic. As the dish spread beyond its North African origins, past the Middle East and into the breakfast and brunch menus of the rest of the (western) world, new and edgy takes on shakshuka emerged. Take Jamie Oliver’s green shakshuka, for example, with its spinach and peas, dill and mint. Nonetheless, if anything, the etymology of shakshuka is a testament to the flexibility of this dish.

Shakshuka
for four serves
10 minutes prep time, minimum 40 minutes cook time

Ingredients

4 tbsp of olive oil

1 onion (brown if you’re feeling frugal, Spanish red if you’re feeling fancy), roughly diced

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 red capsicums (one red and one green if you can be bothered – the former is sweeter, the latter more bitter), chopped into bite-sized chunks

2 x 400g tins of whole tomatoes (or one whole and the other chopped)

2 tsp of sugar

4-8 eggs, depending on hunger

Salt to taste

Optional ingredients

Up to 3 tsp of spices – chilli flakes, sweet paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper

1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, borlotti beans, or chickpeas

Bread

Directions

1.     Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent.

2.     Turn the heat down to low-medium and add the capsicum skin-down. Cover the pan. After a few minutes, when you can just pierce the capsicum and it’s starting to go soft, turn the heat up to medium.

3.     Add the tinned tomatoes and roughly mash them. Once warmed, add in the sugar and spices, mixing through.

4.     Cover and simmer the mixture over a low heat for 30 minutes. If desired, add the tinned beans or chickpeas towards the end of the simmering.

5.     Make as many depressions in the mixture as there are eggs. Break in the eggs and season them lightly. Cover again and cook for about 10 minutes or until they’re just set. (If you prefer, you can bake the mixture at 180°C for about 10 minutes instead.)

6.     Serve with warm bread.

Since we mostly take after the English in our diet – see the traditional English breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages and coffee – we view the poached eggs in shakshuka as an element that firmly places the dish in the breakfast category. However, in Israel for example, shakshuka is a popular evening meal. In this way, not only is shakshuka flexible in terms of the ingredients that comprise it, but also the time of day at which you can eat it. It doesn’t get better than that.

Natasha Hau studies a combined Bachelors in Communications and International Studies, plus a Diploma in Languages. She likes grammar a lot, which explains why she's still studying German.