The name may make you want to shout “gesundheit!”, but Shakshouka is not an onomatopoeia for a sneeze. It’s a Mediterranean dish with North African roots, made by poaching eggs in a tomato and pepper sauce. While I’d eat Shakshouka for any meal, I can’t think of a better way to start the day than to split open the soft poached eggs with a fork and dredging a piece of bread through the rich golden yolk, and tangy tomato sauce.
Because it’s such a simple dish, sun-ripened fresh tomatoes taste best, but if you can’t find good tomatoes, or are in a rush, an 800 gram (28 ounce) can of stewed tomatoes will work fine. Since canned tomatoes have already been cooked down, you don’t need quite as much as when you start with fresh tomatoes, and the sauce will be done faster.
If you do opt for fresh tomatoes, I’d recommend peeling them first. You can do this by boiling a large pot of water, scoring a shallow “x” into the bottom of the tomatoes, and plunging them into the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Then transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. The skins should easily peel away at this point.
I don’t remove the seeds from my tomatoes because the gelatinous membrane around each seed contains a lot of flavor that would be lost if you remove the seeds.
Since the sauce can be made ahead of time, you can double or triple the recipe for the sauce and store it either in the fridge or the freezer. Then, just some of the sauce and poach your eggs in it.
Shakshouka is believed to have originated in Tunisia, and is traditionally served in a cast iron pan. Food blogger Marc Matsumoto suggests getting extra bread to mop up the sauce. He also explains the options for tomatoes in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 small red chili pepper, finely minced (optional, to taste)
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, minced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, minced
- 1 kilogram ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (35 ounces)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- parsley, minced for garnish
- Heat a medium saucepan over a medium flame until hot. Add the oil and cumin seeds. Toast until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
- Add the garlic, chili pepper, onion, and bell peppers, and then fry until they’re tender and starting to caramelize (about 10-15 minutes).
- Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and salt, and then simmer uncovered until the mixture is thick and chunky (about 15-20 minutes).
- Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings to your tastes. At this point, you can divide the mixture and save some for later. You should have enough tomato sauce to poach about 6 eggs, so if you only want to make 2 eggs, set 2/3 of the mixture aside.
- Break the eggs into the pot, and then turn down the heat to medium low, covering the pan with a lid. Cook the eggs until they reach your desired level of doneness.
- Serve the Shakshouka with your favorite bread.
Yield: 3-4 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.