Shakshuka is one of those Middle Eastern recipes that is claimed by different ethnic communities across the region. According to Yotam Ottolenghi, the dish was created in Tunisia but was brought to Israel by Jewish communities. However, I’ve also heard that the dish originated in Yemen or Saudi Arabia.
The first time I ate shakshuka was in 2006, in the Sinai peninsula in northern Egypt, where Hani, our Bedouin host, served it for breakfast along with homemade tahini and hummus, pita bread, and guava juice. I loved–and still do–the simplicity and vibrancy of the dish, and its one of my favorite breakfast dishes of all time.
When I eat it, it still brings up memories of the Mars-like landscape of the Sinai peninsula and the simplicity of vacation time. That’s me, sleeping on the beach as the sun rises…
Yotam Ottolenghi has a recipe for shakshuka that is different from mine (he uses saffron and other ingredients, which I omitted here), but, at the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I find my version simpler and closer to what I remember from my experiences in Egypt. But really, you can be flexible with what herbs you have on hand. Ottolenghi uses parsley and coriander, which works very well, but I love the combination of basil and coriander too.
I had the pleasure of procuring some beautifully bruised red and yellow peppers at the Farmer’s market today. Shakshuka is the perfect showcase for them, not to mention a great way to wander back to a serene holiday.
Prep and cooking time: 15 minutes
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 white onion, cut in half moons
½ red pepper and ½ yellow pepper (or just one)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. cayenne pepper/red pepper flakes
Handful of basil
Handful of coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat.
- Add the onions with a pinch of salt and fry till yellow, about three minutes.
- Add the peppers and saute for another three minutes until softened.
- Add the tomatoes and cayenne pepper. Mix everything together. Add a tbsp. of water in case the mixture is dry. The texture should be thick and a bit wet – like a chunky pasta sauce. Add half of the coriander leaves and half of the basil leaves to the mixture.
- Once the tomatoes have softened, crack four eggs on top of the mixture, being careful not to break the yolks. Add a few grinds of black pepper and a dash of salt. Reduce the heat to low.
- Cover the pan and cook until the eggs are no longer wobbly, but the yolk is still runny (about four minutes) on low heat.
- Garnish with the remaining coriander and basil. Serve with pita or any good bread. Hummus (homemade if you can do it) is a great accompaniment!