Shakshuka is a flavoursome mix of tomatoes, peppers and onions with eggs baked on top, which you can spice up or not, depending on your personal tastes. In North Africa, where this dish originates, it is usually served for breakfast. I prefer to start the day with something a bit less pokey but I think it makes a fantastic brunch, lunch or supper. All you need on the side is some good bread to mop up the egg yolks and sauce.
There are numerous variations. I used some chorizo but vegetarians might like to consider replacing it with olives or (just before adding the eggs) cubed feta cheese.
About 100g chorizo, sliced (or merguez), optional
2 large onions, peeled and sliced into half moons
4 red, yellow or green peppers, preferably a mixture, de-seeded and sliced into 1.5 cm strips
1 tspn soft brown sugar
8 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped, or about 600-800g tinned tomatoes
1/2 tspn cumin seeds
3-4 heaped tspn harissa, to taste (optional) or a good pinch of cayenne
1 heaped tspn sweet paprika (less if you’re using chorizo)
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped from the stem
A big handful of fresh coriander, chopped, plus more to garnish
Salt and pepper
1-2 eggs per person
Put a small splash of olive oil in a deep, heavy-based frying pan or skillet and gently fry the chorizo, if using, until the oil runs. Remove the chorizo and set aside on a piece of kitchen paper. Throw in the cumin seeds and cook for a minute or two until you can smell the spice.
Add the onions to the pan (use more oil if you’re not using chorizo) and fry the onions until soft and golden. Now add the peppers and sugar, stir well and turn the heat to high. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the peppers are beginning to colour on the edges. Lower the heat, stir in the paprika (and cayenne, if using) and cook for one minute.
Put in the chopped tomatoes, harissa and herbs (and olives, if you’re using them) and season with black pepper and a little salt. You’ll be reducing the shakshuka so don’t over-salt at this point.
Cook gently for 15-20 minutes until you have a thick sauce, adding water if it reduces too much. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You can make the sauce ahead up to this point.
Just before you want to eat, put the sauce back on the stove and warm it through. Make enough hollows to take all your eggs and break one into each dip.
Put on a lid and cook on a very low heat for around 10 minutes, or until the whites are set and the yolks still runny. Mine over-cooked a bit because I was so busy taking photos. Scatter over some fresh coriander (if you remember) and serve with hunks of good bread for dunking and scooping.