Recipe: Shakshuka (Middle Eastern Simmered Eggs in Tomato Sauce)

Being away from my home country, it's always interesting to see from afar, and read about, the different food trends going on in the States. Many of the trending dishes or cuisine in the States aren't so easily found over here so one needs to basically go off of pictures and descriptions to try and imagine often what these new and trending eats are like.

I first heard about today's dish through a number of different American publications and blogs as a trending brunch menu and was immediately intrigued. Slowly simmered eggs in a blend of seasoned tomatoes and other ingredients to scoop with bread and pita sounded so homely and delicious I became keen on giving it a shot in the kitchen.

Problem is that while most of the ingredients for this dish is (thankfully) readily found in Korea, I had no idea what to go off of since I hadn't tried this dish before. It's a dish that's from the middle east (some even say North African) and seems to be eaten most commonly as a breakfast dish. Based on different descriptions, I had an idea of what it tasted and looked like but since it's not something I have firsthand experience with, I can't say I can vouch for the authenticity of my take on it.

What I can vouch for is its deliciousness and easiness to prepare. It also looks as impressive as it is delicious so if you want to impress that girlfriend, entertain guests, whatever but you're either lacking time or experience, this is a dish I'd recommend for you. Just add a salad and a nice loaf of bread to make it a homely dinner or brunch. It's also vegetarian friendly (as long as they eat eggs) but will still satisfy your meat-loving friends.

Plus, it's just as impressive to watch the faces of your guests when you tell the name of the dish as it is fun to say.


Makes 2 Servings

You'll need:
- 1 can of whole, peeled Tomatoes
- 1/2 an Onion
- 1 small Bell Pepper
- 5-6 Eggs
- 3 small Chili Peppers (Optional) 
- 1 tsp of minced Garlic
- 1 tbsp of Sugar
- 1 tsp of Cumin
- 1/2 tbsp of dried mixed Herbs (mine has Thyme, Parsley and Marjoram) 
- 1 tbsp of Paprika or Cayenne Pepper
- 1 tbsp of Crushed Red Pepper (Optional)
- Pinch of Salt and Pepper
Note: I've seen other recipes which calls for crumbled Feta Cheese or Goat Cheese on top at the end which sounds like a nice addition if you have on hand. If you have fresh herbs too, they'd make a great and more flavorful addition than dried herbs.

1. If you choose to add chili peppers for a little kick, I like to roast them directly over a gas grill like mine for a little char hint. Just wash and grab a pepper with a tong and let it snap and crackle in the fire a few seconds on each side to get a nice smoky flavor to them. 

You'll only need to roast them a few seconds on each side over the fire

Then they take on a nice char and smoky flavor

2. Dice your onion and bell pepper and chop the roasted chili peppers into 1/2 inch rounds or so. 

3. Heat up a skillet or pan with some olive oil on medium-high and add your diced onion and pepper. As the onion begins to turn golden, add in your minced garlic and chopped chili peppers and cook another minute or two.

4. Add in your can of whole, peeled tomatoes, including its juices, and give it all a nice mix. Add in your spices, sugar, salt and pepper. As it continues to cook, gently press the tomatoes to crush them in the pan. Turn the heat to medium and stir occasionally over the next few minutes.

Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking during this time. In the end, mine tasted similar to a slightly sweet and just a hint of spicy version of a tomato-based pasta sauce with a note of Mediterranean spices. The sauce should be thin and soupy in the beginning but slowly thicken as it cooks. If it's looking a little dry in the beginning, add about 1/2 a cup of water (though this shouldn't be necessary if you added the entire can of tomatoes as is).

5. When the sauce is beginning to visibly thicken, this is when you want to crack in your eggs. Make small indents with a spoon around the sauces and then crack an egg, one-by-one, into the indents. These indents will help the eggs cook better with the sauce.

Add just a tiny pinch of herbs and salt on each egg for better flavor and looks. Close the lid on it and let it simmer for the next 5-10 minutes. Simmering is the key word here and your sauce should be not be bubbling and boiling. Lower the heat further if necessary. You'll want to keep an eye on it every minute after the five minutes mark and cook until the yolks are just set (or less if you like it runny) and the sauce has considerably thickened. Remember the pan will remain hot even after cooking so you may want to turn off the heat just a minute before it looks just right to prevent overcooking.

Crack an egg into each indent and cover and let the eggs slowly simmer

When it's finished cooking, the sauce should have thickened and the yolks just cooked

6. To serve, scoop out two or three eggs with plenty of the sauce on individual plates. Have slices of your favorite bread or pita on hand. I chose to just use plain buttered and toasted bread but use your imagination. Whatever you choose, have plenty on hand as they'll be grabbed by the handful to mop up the sauce and eggs!

The combination of flavors and textures on bread is heavenly

Simple and easy to make and yet still exotic and versatile for tastes and preference... you may find yourself cooking this quite frequently when in a pinch for a quick but wholesome meal!