When I first went to Tunisia, many years ago, my dear friend Synda often made Shakshouka for me. It consists of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce and it’s such a tasty dish that I never got tired of eating it. In fact, I adopted the recipe once I was back home because it’s so easy to make and I almost always have all the ingredients on hand. It’s now my go-to “fast-food” when I don’t know what to make for dinner. Or lunch, or breakfast, for that matter. Because it’s a dish that is suitable for any meal of the day!
Shakshouka is a traditional Tunisian dish that is popular all over North Africa and the Middle East, and in recent years, it’s become better known here in North America. Synda usually makes it with fresh tomatoes, but I often make it with canned tomatoes from my garden, since we only have fresh homegrown tomatoes for such a small window of the year. I find it’s equally good with canned tomatoes, so feel free to use whichever is most readily available to you.
Try to use local pastured organic eggs if you can, because the yolks will be a deep dark beautiful yellow instead of that sad pale yellow color that factory-farmed eggs tend to have. This dish is most appetizing when the colors pop off the plate!
There are many variations of this dish out there, so feel free to improvise. I’m providing the recipe exactly as I learned it. And Synda in turn learned to make it her mom, who is an incredible cook. The key spice that they both use is a mix of ground coriander and caraway, called tebel-carwiya in Tunisia. Most of the “North American” versions of shakshouka call for cumin, but Synda’s version doesn’t, and I personally much prefer her spice blend to the use of cumin. However, if you’re a cumin lover, by all means go ahead and throw a few pinches in there.
Once you know the recipe well, you won’t even follow it anymore and you’ll just make it your own, customized to your taste. You can add fresh chopped peppers for added spice, if you wish. You can poach the eggs for as long as you want to, depending whether you prefer a soft yolk or a hard yolk. I’ve sometimes added capers or crumbled feta cheese on top, which is lovely. Be sure to eat it with some bread to soak up every last drop of the tomato sauce. Enjoy!
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- About 8 tomatoes, preferably roma paste tomatoes but any will do (or about 2 x 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes)
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground caraway
- 2 tsp paprika (can be smoked paprika for added flavor)
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, or add more if you like it spicy)
- 1/2 tsp salt (more, to taste)
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 4 large pasture-raised eggs
- 2 to 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
- Place a large skillet on medium heat and sauté the chopped onions in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the chopped garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Add all the spices, stir, and cook for another minute.
- Chop the tomatoes (preferably removing the seeds) and add them into the skillet, cooking for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sauce has started to thicken. If the sauce if too thick, add about 1/4 cup of water, stir, and cook for another couple minutes. You don't want your sauce to be too thick, so that the eggs will poach well. On the other hand, you don't want it to be too liquidey or the flavors will be diluted. Taste the sauce and add more salt, if needed.
- Once your sauce is just right, carefully crack the 4 eggs on top of the sauce, leaving a space between each one. (If there's room, you might be able to fit an additional 2 or 3 eggs into the sauce). Put a lid on the skillet, and allow the eggs to cook for about 5 minutes, checking them often so that the yolk reaches the state that you prefer. (In Tunisia, the yolk is usually soft, but if you prefer a cooked yolk, simply cook it a bit longer).
- Once the eggs are cooked to your liking, remove the skillet from heat, and sprinkle the chopped parsley on top of the eggs. Serve hot, with a good slice of bread to soak up all the delicious tomato sauce.
Yield: 2-4 servings
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series was nominated for a 2014 James Beard Award. In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.