Middle Eastern Shakshuka

This hearty dish of poached eggs over a rich, spicy tomato sauce is popular throughout the Middle East.

In Israel, in particular, it’s extremely popular as a breakfast or brunch dish and you can find it on almost every café menu.

In fact, this dish is such a local favourite that there are even cafés and restaurants that serve only shakshuka, offering a full menu of variations on the theme. You can have cheese shaksuka, aubergine shakshuka and even meat shakshuka!

Although traditionally made with eggs, you can even find vegan versions nowadays, using tofu, seitan and even potatoes instead of eggs. But even the basic recipe can lend itself to some variations.

There is much debate about whether this dish should contain garlic, onion or both. This version uses only garlic, as that is more traditional. If you’d like to try adding some onion too, use 1 medium onion, chop it finely and add it at the beginning, with the garlic.

Similarly, people like to add different spices to the tomato sauce, so feel free to experiment. Paprika is a common addition to the mix, as are other local herb mixes such as za’atar.

The recipe below is for a straightforward, basic, traditional shakshuka, as well as some simple ideas for variations.

Once you get the hang of the basic method, you can really add pretty much anything you want to the tomato sauce. The only rule is to add it early on if it requires a lot of cooking time. Otherwise, add it at the end with the eggs if it requires minimal cooking or right before serving if it requires none.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 2.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped or 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 medium bell paper (any colour will do), finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder (or more if you like things spicy) or an inch of chopped fresh chili pepper
  • For variations:
  • 100gr feta cheese
  • Some rocket leaves, or chopped parsley, basil, or thyme (to garnish)

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan or skillet over a medium flame. Add the garlic. If using the fresh chili, also add it at this point. Sauté for a couple of minutes until soft and fragrant (don’t burn the garlic!) then add bell pepper. Mix well with a wooden spoon and sauté for another 5 or so minutes, until soft.

Add chopped tomatoes and spices. If using fresh tomatoes. Stir and simmer till it starts to reduce. Usually about 5-8 minutes. You can speed up cooking time by covering the pan for a few minutes. Once reduced, taste and add more spices to taste if necessary.

Crack the eggs one by one into the mixture. Do not mix! If adding cheese, chop it up into small cubes and drop them in as well.  Cover the pan again and allow to cook for 10 minutes more, until the egg whites are cooked.

There is no right way or wrong way to cook the egg whites. Some people prefer them runny, while others like them to be almost like fried egg whites. Remove cover and garnish with fresh herbs, if using.

Traditionally, a shakshuka is served hot, straight from the skillet or pan, with chunky slices of rustic bread or warm pita bread. You can use the bread to soak up the sauce.  In Israel, most savoury breakfast dishes are also served with a simple side salad and some bitter Syrian olives.