I never quite understood as a student why most children at school did not enjoy history as a subject. It has been an enchanting area of both study and leisure for me, and has only gotten better with my growing interest in how food and history are interwoven. And one of the most intriguing food history to me is the story of the simple egg. While domestication of foul goes back to 3200 B.C., the consumption of eggs seems to have started in the eastern half of the world first. Although, I have read that there seems to be evidence of the existence of native foul in the Americas before Columbus arrived. That part of the egg's history remains fuzzy.
I'm a huge fan of eggs and I love making them in different ways. They're perfect for breakfast, lunches, brunches or dinner, and this version of eggs, shakshuka will surely win your heart if it hasn't already earlier. Shakshuka literally means all-mix-up and is an easy assemble and cook-all-in-a-pan dish!
Like many other dishes that originate elsewhere but become popular in their emigrated lands, Shakshuka follows that destiny too.
Shakshuka is believed to have North-African origins and travelled to Middle-East with Jewish immigrants. It's also known that the dish originated either in Yemen or the Ottoman Empire, and the history remains disputed and misty. Shakshuka has similar looking and tasting cousins in different parts of Europe and America - huevos rancheros in Mexico, eggs in purgatory in Italy, and menemen in Turkey. In all of these versions, eggs are laid on a bed of tomato and pepper sauce (sometimes onions), either poached or scrambled, and topped with seasoning.
What do I like about Shakshuka?
This is an extremely low-effort no-drama dish, and it follows the same fashion while serving as well. It's placed on the table in the same pan or skillet in which it's cooked with loaves of bread on the side for everyone to scoop the saucy eggs. It's an excellent example of the dishes cooked for communal eating, where everyone eats from the same plate or dish.
Shakshuka has evolved over time into different forms wherein other vegetables are added to the tomatoes and pepper sauce. This transformation makes it quite versatile. The core sauce is always tomatoes, and beyond that you can use your imagination! Peppers, potatoes, eggplants, greens and even squashes happily assimilate in the profuse base sauce on which eggs can be cracked straight on and cooked to desired doneness.
It's so simple, yet so gorgeous and extremely healthy for any meal you choose to eat.
And, what about this recipe?
This recipe is a close call to my husband's memories of the Turkish menemen that uses green peppers along with tomatoes in the sauce and spices like black pepper and paprika.
I enjoy the taste of onions and garlic in a tomato based sauce and I like that extra kick of Bird's eye chilies and jalapenos. So, they all find a home in my shakshuka too. And, of course there is some Indian influence of cumin!
The eggs in this shakshuka are cooked to be partially firm, but not so much that they loose their gooey yellow flow when sliced in!
4 eggs of your choice
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil (or any oil of your choice)
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp garlic minced
1 small yellow onion sliced
1 green and 1 red/orange bell peppers chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper freshly crushed
1-2 hot peppers like Cayenne peppers or Thai chilies or jalapenos (optional)
1/4 smoked paprika
1/4 cumin powder
5 large tomatoes chopped or 1 small can of tomatoes
salt to taste
freshly chopped cilantro
1. In an iron skillet or pan on medium heat, add oil and some cumin seeds, and toss in garlic and onion.
2. Sauté and add the bell peppers and freshly crushed black pepper.
3. Add the chilies now if you wish to add them.
4. Keep mixing and add smoked paprika and cumin powder.
5. Next add the tomatoes. This will automatically bring down the heat.
6. Add water and salt to taste and bring the gravy to a boil.
7. Make depths in the gravy with the back of a spoon and toss in eggs in the spots.
8. Cover the pan and poach the eggs to your liking.
9. Open and garnish with fresh cilantro.
Toast a good bread and dig into the saucy eggs resting in the pan! Shakshuka is one of my personal favourite recipes and if you're an egg lover like me, I'm sure you'll thoroughly enjoy it.