The first time I had shakshuka, I felt the earth shake a bit under the table. It was a flavour bomb even though the dish was made with humble ingredients – tomato, capsicum, cumin and chilli (paprika).
And runny eggs. Who doesn’t like soft, liquid yolk oozing with savoury creaminess? I mopped the pan clean with bits of torn sourdough bread.
Where have you been all my life, shakshuka? Never mind, now that I’ve found you, you’ll be my BFF. I am not the only one smitten; shakshuka was the rage last year and even before that in many cities around the world, from London to New York. And the love is still simmering.
“How terribly dull breakfast must have been before the wonderfully exotic-sounding shakshuka entered our national vo-cabulary,” wrote The Guardian’s Felicity Cloake recently. Forbes magazine named it one of the top 10 food trends of 2015 and Time magazine named it among the “10 healthy international breakfasts”.
“Shakshuka got back its lettre de noblesse thanks in part to Ottolenghi,” said chef Jean Michel Fraisse of The French Culinary School in Asia who is sharing three recipes for shakshuka here.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s Nopi restaurant in London has one of the best shakshuka in London, according to Anna Brech of Stylist magazine. The shakshuka recipe as featured in his book Jerusalem, is the most shared and quoted among Netizens.
“Sometimes, I wonder what we all ate before Yotam Ottolenghi came along,” Cloake wrote.
I had my first shakshuka last year at the Huckleberry café in Damansara Heights in Kuala Lumpur and knew it was a winner straight away. At Enorme in Section 13, Petaling Jaya, it is called The Tunisian – for a good reason. You can find versions of it all over town especially at breakfast and brunch venues in the Klang Valley: Copper in Sentral, The Red Bean Bag in Publika, Bedrock in Taipan USJ, TBF in Kota Damansara, etc.
Shakshuka traces its roots to Tunisia and the word means “to mix” or “shake up”. The dish spread to the Arab world, especially Israel, and among Jews.
“Back home, we have a large Tunisian community but unlike the couscous which has become one of the most popular dishes in France, shakshuka was relatively unknown,” said Fraisse.
“During the summer when tomato and capsicum abound, my mother used to prepare shakshuka with chicken liver and served it as a pie in two layers of puff pastry. She got her recipe from my aunt who lived in Tunisia.
“In my family it was a very popular dish during gatherings in the summer and we used to eat it cold. Recently, I decided to include shakshuka in one of my cooking classes. The feedback was very good and the following day I also prepared another version at home.”
Making shakshuka is very quick and inexpensive. It requires only a few ingredients.
“But to make a good one, we need to start with good ingredients, especially the tomato,” Fraisse said.
“As it’s hard to find really good tomatoes in Malaysia, I prefer to use quality canned tomatoes. Smoked paprika and harissa will definitely make a difference too.”
There are many variations and ways to prepare and eat shakshuka – cold as a dip, with olives and anchovies, in a pie, etc. The classic can be very plain, which could be just eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce.
“Here I give you a take on the classic which is more luxe, with the addition of a spicy sausage such as chorizo and chickpeas – but feel free to lose them. The beetroot and green shakshuka are totally unmainstream, but no less tasty in my opinion.”
50ml olive oil
240g chorizo or spicy sausages, sliced (optional)
1 red capsicum, sliced
1 green capsicum, sliced or 2 jalapeno peppers
1 large red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp smoked paprika or paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
800g chunky tomato pulp, or peeled tomato
2-3 tbsp harissa
250g cooked chickpeas (optional)
salt, sugar and pepper to taste
flatleaf parsley or coriander, chopped
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Sauté the chorizo until slightly browned and set aside.
In the same pan, cook the capsicum until softened. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes.
Add in garlic, smoked paprika and cumin, and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
Pour in tomato, add the harissa and season to taste and simmer for around 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Add in chickpeas and chorizo, and simmer for 2 more minutes. Remove the pan from heat.
Dig wells in the shakshuka for the eggs. Crack the eggs one by one into a small dish and slip the eggs into the wells.
Return pan to the stove and cook the eggs over low heat until the white is cooked and the yolk is still runny.
Remove from heat, garnish the herb and serve with toasted sourdough bread or flatbread.
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large beetroots, cut into thin batons
2 large carrots, cut into thin batons
1 large red onion, chopped or sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
400ml chunky tomato pulp or peeled tomato (canned)
200ml water or chicken/vegetable stock
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey
zest of 1 orange
salt, pepper, cumin and smoked paprika to taste
mint leaves for garnishing
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom pan over medium heat.
Cook beetroot for 3 minutes. Add in carrot and cook for another 2 minutes. Add in the rest of the ingredients and cook, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Make wells in the shakshuka. Crack the eggs one by one into a small dish and slide them into the wells.
Cook on the stove over low heat until the egg white is cooked and yolk is still runny. Garnish, and serve immediately.
50ml olive oil
1 leek, sliced thinly
1 stalk celery, sliced thinly
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
2 hot green chillies (jalapeno)
200g kale or Swiss chard, roughly chopped
100g frozen spinach, roughly chopped or 300g fresh local spinach
100g plain yoghurt, sour cream or cream
nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste
4 small eggs
80g feta cheese, crumbled
4 pita bread (optional)
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Cook the leek for 5 minutes or until softened.
Add in celery, onion, garlic and chilli, and cook for another 3 minutes. Add in kale and spinach and cook for around 2 minutes or until greens are wilted. Stir in the yoghurt or cream and season to taste. Remove pan from heat.
Make wells in the shakshuka. Crack the eggs one by one into a small dish and slide them into the wells. Cook on the stove over low heat until the egg white is cooked and yolk is still runny. Garnish with feta, and serve immediately.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Cut the top off the pita with a pair of scissors to form a kind of bowl.
Scoop some green shakshuka into the pita bowl. Make a well in the shakshuka and crack in an egg. Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until eggs are cooked but still runny.
Garnish with feta, and serve immediately.