Shakshuka is a North African dish eaten all over the Middle East and is a special favorite in Israel. It’s commonly eaten for breakfast but is delicious anytime, anywhere. One of many variations is to sprinkle with feta cheese, which I plan to try next time.
This recipe is from Yotam Ottolenghi’s fabulous vegetarian cookbook Plenty.
Check out all of his cookbooks (not all vegetarian) here. Ottolenghi grew up in Israel and is credited by many with starting the recent Middle Eastern/Mediterranean-food renaissance (in the U.K. and U.S. at least), heavy on vegetables, legumes and grains. He runs the restaurants Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.
½ tsp cumin seeds
¾ cup light olive oil or vegetable oil
2 large onions sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into ¾-inch strips
2 yellow peppers, cut into ¾-inch stips
4 tsp muscovado sugar
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
2 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp chopped cilantro, plus extra to garnish
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ tsp saffron threads
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
Up to 1 1/8 cups water
In a very large pan dry-roast the cumin seeds on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar and herbs and continue cooking on high heat for 5-10 minutes to get a nice color.
Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavorful. (You can prepare this mix well in advance.)
Remove the bay leaves, then divide the pepper mix among four deep frying pans, each large enough to take a generous individual portion. Place them on medium heat to warm up, then make two gaps in the pepper mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a very (!) gentle heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
Eat with thick, crusty bread.