I think we have already established I love Israeli food, and not just because of Yotam Ottolenghi. Shakshouka was my first meal after touching down in Tel Aviv, and it remained my favourite throughout my whole time in Israel.
Shakshouka is believed to be Tunisian in origin and means “a mixture” in Tunisian Berber dialect. It was introduced to Israel by Tunisian Jews, many of whom migrated from Tunisia during the 1950s and 1960s.
Prepared in a skillet (shallow metal pan), shakshouka is a vegetarian dish commonly served for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, midnight snack, whenever one is hungry….and DRUM ROLL PLEASE….. it has eggs on top! I know, eggs! I love an egg on top!
I decided to make shakshouka. So, guess where I looked for a recipe? Yes, you guessed it; why would I look anywhere else…Mr Ottolenghi, do your thing.
There are a couple of Ottolenghi shakshouka recipes online. Here is a vegetarian one, and here is a less traditional meat one. I pretty much read a few different recipes and then started throwing things together. What makes this version, I think, is the aubergine; charred on the hob first, it gives the dish a really intense smokey flavour. Yum!
Shakshouka with charred aubergine
Serves 4 for brunch or lunch.
1 large aubergine
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 large onions
5 garlic cloves
1.5 tbsp harissa paste
1.5 tbsp tomato puree
1 massive yellow pepper (or 2 small/average ones)
1 massive red pepper (or 2 small/average ones)
5 ripe tomatoes
2 bay leaves
Handful coriander leaves
Chunky bread to serve
- Start by charring the aubergine on the naked flame of the hob. To do this, pierce the skin in a few places with a sharp knife and rest it on top of the flame for 20 minutes, turning every now and again, until blackened. If you have an electric hob, you can do this under the grill instead.
- Now, you don’t want to leave this alone, so while the aubergine is charring I made the most of the time by chopping up the onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes and placing into little bowls. This means that when you start the cooking, you can throw everything in like you are in a cookery programme. I like to pretend I am Lorraine Pascale. Try to keep the vegetables quite chunky.
- When the aubergine is completely blackened, place it in a colander and rinse with cold water. Set to one side.
- Place the cumin seeds in a large shallow pan. Put onto a medium heat for a few minutes until the flavours are released. Whatever you do, don’t let it burn.
- Add the olive oil, onions and garlic and stir for a few minutes until translucent.
- Add the tomato puree, harissa paste, peppers, tomatoes, water and bay leaves and leave for around 15-20 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft.
- While this is cooking, peal all the black bits off the aubergine to leave the fleshy middle. It is a bit fiddly, but you can do it. Roughly chop the middle bit and add to the pan.
- Season and add half of the coriander.
- Crack 4 eggs on top, place a lid on and leave for 5 minutes until the whites are cooked (the egg yolks should still be runny).
- Sprinkle the rest of the coriander on top, and serve with chunky bread.
Did I ever tell you…
…About the time I drunk-tweeted Yotam Ottolenghi? I had just received a signed copy of his book Jerusalem for my birthday and got a little over-excited. I may have suggested to him that I was planning to use his signature to forge a marriage certificate. I removed the tweet very swiftly in the morning. *cringe*