Shaqshuka - a contribution from the Middle East

In its most primitive form, shaqshuka is even easier than the easiest of the above recipes, as it not only consists of canned tomatoes and not much more, but the eggs don't even need to be scrambled - they go in whole. This version of what is, in Israel at least, a breakfast dish is usually restricted to camping trips and male-only environments such as army camps; most domestic cooks add all manner of refinements to the basic ingredients. Below is what I have come to think of as "my" shaqshuka, honed through many years of trial and success (there's no such thing as error - it's too easy).

To feed 4 mediumly hungry people at breakfast time, or 2 adults for lunch, you will need:

  • 1 250gr can peeled plum tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 a red bell pepper, chopped
  • A small handful chopped coriander or parsley
  • Sweet paprika, smoked or not - about half a teaspoon
  • Hot paprika, chilli powder, or fresh chopped chilli to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying

  1. First heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan with deep sides. What's called a "sauteuse" - deep, wide, double handled sauté pan - is ideal. Sweat the onion on a low heat until glassy, then add the pepper and continue to fry gently for 10 minutes or so.

  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, including the juice, and slowly bring to a simmer. Season to taste, adding the sweet and hot paprika or chilli and the chopped herbs. Give it a good stir and simmer for a couple more minutes to let the flavours develop.

  3. Make a little indentation in the simmering sauce with a large spoon. Carefully break open an egg and pour into said niche, trying not to break the yolk. Repeat with all 4 eggs, then add a little pinch of freshly ground black pepper to the top of them - it really brings out their savouriness.

  4. Cover the pan and cook for 4-8 minutes, depending on how runny or hard you like your eggs. Dish out with a ladle or large serving spoon, obviously trying to keep the yolks still intact. Serve with crusty white bread, olives and strong black coffee.