Sunday, April 7, 2013

Yotam Ottolenghi's Shakshuka

Shakshuka is a North African breakfast and brunch specialty that showcases a beautiful array of veggies:  red and yellow bell peppers, onion, and tomatoes.  These veggies, along with a flavorful blend of spices and herbs, simmer away to create a perfectly spiced sauce that is vibrant in color.  This colorful sauce serves as a bed for poached eggs and can be served family-style or individually.  

This is a very impressive and welcoming dish that would be perfect for entertaining.  Not only is it pretty to look at it, but the sauce can also be made in advance.  In fact, I would encourage you to make the sauce in advance because the flavor actually improves with time.  The morning of your breakfast or brunch you simply reheat the sauce in a skillet (add a touch of water if it's too thick) and break a few eggs.  You'll have a very inviting dish in less than 10 minutes! 

As a bonus, this recipe is also quite healthy.  The original recipe did call for 3/4 cup olive oil, but I was able to reduce the oil down to 1/4 cup.  With the reduction, one cup of sauce with one egg is roughly 200 calories.  This means you shouldn't feel guilty about grabbing that piece of bread for dunking.  You are eating your veggies for breakfast after all!

Adapted from Plenty
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 8

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 large onions, sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch strips
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch strips
4 teaspoons muscovado (or brown) sugar
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus extra to garnish
6 ripe tomatoes (or two 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
pinch of cayenne pepper 
salt and black pepper
up to 1-1/8 cups water
8 eggs

For Garnish: Various herbs (cilantro, parsley, etc.)
Feta Cheese
Preserved Lemon

Note:  The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup olive or vegetable oil, but I didn't find it necessary to add all that oil so I reduced it to 1/4 cup. Also, if tomatoes are not in season, go ahead and substitute 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced or crushed tomatoes.

In a very large pan dry-roast the cumin seeds on high heat for 2 minutes.  Add the oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the peppers, sugar and herbs and  continue cooking on high heat for 5 to 10 minutes to get a nice color.

Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.  During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  It should be potent and flavorful.  You can prepare this mix well in advance.

Remove the bay leaves, then divide the pepper mix among four deep frying pans, each large enough to take a generous individual portion.  Place them on medium heat to warm up, then make two gaps in the pepper mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each gap.  Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids.  Cook on a very gentle heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the eggs are set the way you like them.  Sprinkle with cilantro and serve. (Note: You can chose to make the sauce ahead and refrigerate it for later.  You can also serve family-style in one large skillet and/or serve individually as I have).
Below is a video of Yotam Ottolenghi making his recipe for Shakshuka.  
If you're interested in cooking the recipes of Yotam Ottolenghi please visit I Heart Cooking Clubs for more details.

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