Shakshuka – My Mediterranean twist
Ok…if you are familiar with shakshuka, I know the first thing on your mind will be – why? Why change a recipe by giving a North African dish a Mediterranean twist? Well…I would say because I think it’s worth it! Just give it a try and you will feel transported back to sunny shores and the smell of vineyards in Tuscany on a cold wintery day.
Shaskuka is a dish with eggs poached in a tomato and chilli sauce spiced with cumin, for those that did not have the pleasure to try it before.
This is the perfect dish for breakfast, lunch or brunch served along side a slice of sourdough to dunk in the rich tomato sauce. A perfect addition is a salad of whatever leaves you have in the fridge to add a few extra vitamins and minerals.
Shakshuka has also beneficial nutrients. Tomatoes are an amazing source of lycopene when cooked (actually it increases 5 or 6 times vs eating them raw, however you lose the betacarotene and vitamin C which are unstable with heat). It is not just easier but also better to use canned tomatoes in this dish. Let’s face it…the best tomatoes are in Italy (I don’t care if you disagree with me!) and they also are in season in summer. I’ve talked about eggs before so to reiterate, eggs are a complete protein. A bit of a quiz question for you: how many essential amino acids do eggs contain? ANSWER: 8. There are 25 types of animo-acids (molecules which form proteins) which combined make different kinds of protein and there are 8 essential amino-acids and the rest are semi-essential. 30g of egg protein provide 28g of usable protein so you can see how important it is to make eggs part if your diet.
So, let’s get cooking.
- 1 white onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- ¼ of red pepper
- ½ red chilli
- A few springs of rosemary
- A few springs of basil
- 5 black olives
- Can of chopped organic tomatoes
- 1 tbps balsamic vinegar
- 2 eggs
- 1 spring onion to decorate
- Heat a small oven proof pan with 1 tbps of olive oil. If you have a cast iron pan use that as the taste of the overall dish is much better (cast iron disperses the heat more evenly than other materials so the flavour tends to intensify quicker – there you go, some science for you). Slice the onion and garlic and to the pan, stirring until it softens. Add the sliced chilli (leave the seeds for a gentle kick), sliced pepper and chopped rosemary and stir until the peppers start to soften (around 3 min). This base creates the flavours.
- Pre-heat the oven at 200° Celsius.
- Now, add the can of chopped tomatoes, the bay leaf and the tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and the pitted olives. Don’t worry if what you have are not pitted olives, just gently slice the flesh from around the stone. I know you might turn an eyebrow when I say adding balsamic vinegar but believe me, this intensifies the tomato flavour, making it even more tomatoey. Season with salt and pepper and let the tomatoes simmer for 5 min to allow all of these flavours to merge together. You don’t want this to just taste of acidic tomatoes. So a of patience will go a long way fir the perfect breakfast/brunch/lunch.
- After 5 min, add the chopped basil to the tomatoes and make 2 small wells in the tomato sauce with a spoon. Crack open 2 eggs in the wells. Add a few shavings of parmesan and pop the pan in the oven for 3 min or until the eggs have just set when you give the pan a gentle shake. Don’t worry if you think the whites are not cooked…the residual heat from the pan will continue to cook the eggs but you will thank me for soft yolks. YUM YUM! Just decorate with chopped spring onion for an extra layer of texture and flavour.