23 November 2012



(I know, you're all busy trying to eat those Thanksgiving leftovers, but while we're on vacation I wanted to leave you with a brunch idea, maybe something to make for your family on a quiet holiday morning.)

Shakshouka is probably the most famous North African dish, made popular by North African Jews who took the dish on their diaspora to Israel and elsewhere. But shakshouka is still made across Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, with many regional variations. In Algeria, the pepper-tomato mixture alone is sometimes referred to as shakshouka, though it is more likely to be called felfel. Basically, you make felfel, you crack some eggs straight into the mixture and let them poach, and voila. No matter the variation, the poached egg is the signature component of shakshouka.

It has taken me a long time, but I have to say I am more and more into the Middle Eastern thing of eating salty/briney/spicy foods for breakfast. Pickles, feta cheese, olives, poached eggs in spicy yogurt sauce (cilbir), I enjoy all of them. There's something really great about a runny egg yolk and a spicy warm tomato mixture, with some good bread to soak up the sauce.


Shakshouka (Poached Eggs in a Spicy Tomato-Pepper Sauce)
I usually roast and peel the peppers when I buy them, then keep them in the fridge to toss into dishes whenever I need them. If you don't have harissa then Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes will work. Serve with Algerian kesra bread.

2 gloves garlic, minced
3 large or 4 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
4 long green peppers, roasted per below
1/4 teaspoon harissa, or to taste
4 eggs
chopped cilantro and parsley for serving

To make shakshouka:
1.  Heat some olive oil in a wide pan. Add the garlic and let saute until aromatic, do not let the garlic brown. Add in the tomatoes and season with salt. Let the tomatoes simmer until thick and saucy, about 15 minutes. Add in the chopped roasted peppers, the harissa, and simmer another 5-10 minutes to combine.
2. Crack each egg directly into the pan, spacing them evenly. If you are using a very shallow pan the eggs may poach quickly on their own, however if your pan is a bit deeper I find the eggs poach more quickly and evenly if you cover the pan with a lid. Poach until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle with cilantro/parsley.
3. Serve by scooping the eggs and tomato-pepper mixture into bowls. Serve with good bread. Some yogurt on the side is also nice.

To roast peppers:
1. Preheat the oven's broiler and set the oven temperature to 500 F. Rub a baking sheet with olive oil. Halve the peppers and set the cut side down on the baking sheet, rubbing their tops with a bit of olive oil. Broil until the pepper's skin is blackened and bubbly in spots - this could take anywhere from 15-25 minutes depending on your oven, so just keep an eye on them and be sure not to burn them.
2. Immediately place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap - this allows the peppers to steam and their skins to loosen. When the peppers are cool carefully peel off the blackened skin. You don't have to be perfect about it. Slice the peppers lengthwise and cut them crosswise into rectangular pieces. Set aside.


Anonymous said...

Alternatively, cook fish in the same sauce.

Kate Zaidan said...

I have tried forever to find an online recipe for what my Lebanese relatives call "Shakshouky". It is essentially just red and green peppers stewed in olive oil, with coriander as the dominant flavor. It's delicious, and I find it bizarre that I can't find a recipe that doesn't include eggs! Not sure if you ever encountered this in Syria or elsewhere?

Mercedes said...

Hi Kate - My primary knowledge of shakshouka comes from North Africa, but I checked in the Chef Ramzi cookbook, and he does include a recipe for Shakshouka, which is almost the same as I have here (including eggs). However, as I stated previously, some people call just the pepper tomato mixture shakshouka too. Personally, I don't have any real memory of seeing this in Lebanon or Syria but I've been in the region for a long time and my memories tend to run together :)

Bunny said...

This looks amazing! You've also reminded me of a dish I've been trying to find for ages. I had it in Egypt - they served it for breakfast - similar to this in that eggs were cracked over the base ingredient and cooked by the rising steam from the ingredients below, except instead of the pepper/tomato mix, the base was spinach. Only it was the creamiest, softest, most flavoursome spinach I've ever eaten. Have tried to recreate it so many times without luck.

Aleksandra said...

Hi Mercedes,

I've been perusing your blog for the past week, or so - I found it by searching for steamed couscous (a recipe which I completely ruined later :P). Anyway. What's kept me coming back is not the couscous, but your writing. Your style is gracious and inspiring - so effortlessly it seems, and the pictures complement this perfectly. It is a rare blog to come across. Please keep writing and cheers from Canada!

Mercedes said...

Aleksandra - thank you!

Bunny - I've never heard of this dish but I wonder if the greens you had were not spinach but moloukhia. It's a very popular green in Egypt and can be very creamy and delicious (and when cooked poorly, can be a bit slimy). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulukhiyah

Mika said...

Que pinta !mas rica tiene este plato!! Me ha encantado, tomo nota!
Un abrazo y encantada de conocer tu blog!

melisp said...

My dear this is called " menemen". Shaka shuka is something else:))

Mercedes said...

Melisp-- Yes in Turkish cuisine a similar dish is called menemen (very very similar in fact). But in North Africa this is shakshouka! I suspect it is a hold over from Ottoman times and the words must have gotten mixed up over the centuries. Also in North Africa there's a totally different dish called chikhchouka (hard CH versus soft SH), which I've been told comes from berber, since there is no CH sound in Arabic. It's quite the mystery!

Anonymous said...

Mercedes said...

Mykabulkitchen - hi! First off, sorry I seem to have accidentally deleted your comment in replying (tiny iPhone screen!) you were talking about a bread filled with the shakshouka pepper/tomato mix that your friend's mom used to make. It is called mhajeb and it is made by making the dough for msemmens bread and stuffing it with the pepper/tomato mixture. I'm working on improving my technique so I can post a recipe here soon!