In this week's food column in the L.A. Times, Russ Parsons catches up with the flamboyant Middle Eastern cook Yotam Ottolenghi and his great recipe for Shakshuka. Unfortunately the newspaper writer does not actually give the brilliant cook's recipe, but does offer numerous variations on his theme.
To me this is peculiar, no matter how fine these variations may be. But no matter — another site (The Rebel Kitchen) feels as I do about this recipe, and has as well had the enviable experience of eating in one of Ottolenghi's restaurants to back up his love for the recipe, and reproduces it accurately.
Note that it begins with dry roasting a palmful of cumin seeds. This is the most exciting start to a new main dish recipe I have experienced in years.
½ tsp cumin seeds
190ml light olive oil or vegetable oil (I used just under half a cup)
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
2 red and 2 yellow peppers, cored and cut into 2cm strips
4 tsp muscovado sugar
6 sprigs thyme, picked and chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ tsp saffron strands
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
Up to 250ml water
8 free-range eggs
- In a large saucepan, dry-roast the cumin on high heat for two minutes. Add the oil and sauté the onions for two minutes. Add the peppers, sugar, bayleaves, thyme, parsley and two tablespoons of coriander, and cook on high heat to get a nice colour. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, adding enough water to keep it the consistency of a pasta sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavoursome. You can prepare this mix in advance.
- Place four saucepans on medium heat and divide the mixture between them. Break two eggs into each pan, pouring into gaps in the mixture. Sprinkle with salt, cover and cook very gently for 10-12 minutes, until the egg just sets. Sprinkle with coriander and serve with chunky white bread.
As Yotam says when he introduces this recipe in Plenty, this is street food — and he cites a stall in the Middle East (in Israel if memory serves) that serves shakshuka and nothing but shakshuka, all day, every day that the stall is open. But it still looks good, tastes good, tastes different, and doesn't involve meat.