If it’s good enough for half of the Middle East, you can be fairly sure that this will be pretty special. The pepper mixture can be made in advance (even a day or two before) so that all you have to do is reheat it and push back little pockets into which the eggs can be cracked. It is an impressive pan to bring to the table with the vivid colours of the peppers, the subtle scents of the cumin, paprika and saffron, and the anticipation of the quivering eggs. You can be pretty flexible as to what goes in – some cannellini beans from one of your previous triumphs, some chorizo or some feta cheese crumbled over the top – since shakshuka was originally a way of eating what was left over from the previous evening. It is best devoured with a fork in one hand and bread in the other.
To prepare the Shakshuka
To make the pepper base
Place the saffron in a small bowl and cover with 100ml boiling water. Leave to infuse. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan. When hot, add in the cumin seeds and after about 5-10 seconds when they go a shade darker, slide the onions into the pan. Season with salt, add the bay leaves, stir to mix and cover the pan. Cook at a medium heat for about 10 minutes until the onions have softened. Add in the chilli flakes and peppers, season and cook at a medium heat for 10 minutes with the lid on. Mix the tinned tomatoes into the peppers along with the sugar, smoked paprika, saffron and the saffron water. Cook at a brisk heat for about 20 minutes, adding a little water if necessary until the tomatoes reduce to a thickish sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. The pepper mixture may be made up to this point in advance. It will keep in the fridge for several days.
To cook the eggs
Create 4 or 5 wells around the pan. Break the eggs, one by one, into a well. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for about 6 minutes or until the white is just set and the yolk still runny. Keep checking during the process as the timing of the eggs will vary. Scatter with chopped coriander or parsley and serve immediately. The eggs will carry on cooking if left in the pan, so don’t sit there looking at them!
NOTE: If cooking for larger numbers, it is best to divide the shakshuka into separate pans. The eggs cook more evenly if they are not spread out over too wide an area.
- Serves 4-5
pinch saffron, about 16 threads
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 onions, sliced
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
2 red peppers, cut into thin strips
1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
1 yellow pepper, cut into thin strips
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 rounded tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
4-5 large eggs
freshly chopped coriander or parsley to garnish (optional)
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