There seems to be much debate about whether this dish is Israeli or Tunisian, but my first contact with it was when my best friend Olia Hercules worked at Ottolenghi in central London. I had this for breakfast, any dish with eggs would simply struggle to disappoint me, but this was especially good and warming. I would usually recommend avoiding mixing different types of proteins, eggs and yoghurt and cheese in one dish is simply too much. It creates a lot of chaos in the stomach, making digestion tough. There is a good reason not to mix protein-rich foods, which I’ve talked about at great length here. Ottolenghi has a few versions of this dish, some focuses more on spices than others. When I tried Shakshuka or Shakshouka, it came with Labneh (a kind of North Africa yoghurt), which was also delicious dolloped on top. I like lots of spice in my Shaksh(o)uka, and so the yoghurt is even more cooling and welcomed. This dish is actually quite humble, simply eggs poached in seasoned tomato sauce. It reminds me of an Italian pasta sauce dish that a relative of mine makes, its delicious but also very simple to make.
Anyway, there are good nutritional reasons not to cook fresh vegetables, heat olive oil and mix protein-rich foods, however, for this dish I throw my nutrition talk out of the window. Eggs satisfy my hunger like no other protein, I feel full and satiated for hours after eating them. This recipe is my favourite lazy weekend brunch meal, and it’s so simple to prepare for a small group of friends, easy to share and goes well with lightly salted polenta slices or corn tortillas.
This one is my style, made with the staples of my Chinese-foreign kitchen. It uses coriander instead of parsley, Hangzhou chillies and Sichuan pepper as well and Chipotle, with garlic and ginger, and plenty of other spices like cumin and paprika. There are so many variations of Shaksh(0)uka, feel free to change mine to suit your tastes. This dish serves 4 for brunch.
Extra-virgin olive oil, 150ml
Free-range eggs, 8
Feta goat’s cheese, 100g
Natural goat’s yoghurt, 200g
Peeled tomatoes, 2 tins
Spring onions, 8
Fresh ginger, minced, 1 tbsp
Garlic cloves, finely sliced, 4-6
Ground Sichuan pepper, 1 tsp
Ground cumin, 1 tbsp
Yellow bell pepper, finely diced, 1
Caper berries, a handful
Paprika, sweet, smoked or hot, 1 tsp
Dried chipotle, soaked, 1
Red chilies, finely sliced, 2
Sea salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
White sesame seeds, to garnish
Fresh coriander, finely chopped, to garnish
1. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over a medium heat and add garlic, ginger, chilies and all other seasoning and soften for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.
2. Blend the tomatoes in their liquid until smooth and pour over into the pan along with 300ml mineral water. Maintain a medium heat and then simmer, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes.
3. Crack the eggs over the sauce, ensuring that they are evenly distributed in the pan.
4. Cover the skillet under the grill until the eggs yolks are just cooked, for about 5 minutes.
5. Baste the eggs with some of the tomato sauce for a minute and then take off the grill.
6. Sprinkle with a large dollop of natural yoghurt, roughly chopped feta cheese and lots of spring onions, sesame seeds and fresh coriander.
7. Serve hot in the centre of the table with toasted corn or polenta and some fresh lemon slices if you wish.
Season the natural yoghurt with garlic, sea salt, black pepper, fresh lemon juice and fresh herbs if you wish. Serve with a starchy food to mop up the spicy flavours in the tomato sauce.
Replace the seasoning in this particular for flavours you prefer, like the more traditional Mediterranean parsley. This recipe uses the seasoning and aromatics more readily available in China, so it’s not the most typical Shaksh(o)uka recipe. Add some wilted greens to the tomato sauce if you wish. One other option is to add pre-cooked Chinese black beans to the sauce, they work really well here too and and make the dish even more satiating.