Shakshuka is one of those dishes that has been pounced on by the worthy eaters. It seems that whenever the carb-fearing, joy-avoiding, clean eating brigade are called upon to offer a brunch recipe, they come up with a thin, insipid version of shakshuka, which starts with spray oil, moves on to some watery tomatoes and ends with an artfully styled shot of them sniffing it.
Needless to say my shakshuka is full of things they wouldn’t approve of/endorse on Instagram. I learned a thing or two about making it when I went to Israel earlier this year. It was a dream destination for me (in terms of food – politics firmly aside please) but the trip was frankly a bit of a disaster for reasons I can’t go into here. I missed out on a lot of the food experiences I’d been dreaming about, but did manage a couple, including a visit to a restaurant specialising in shakshuka. The restaurant was called Dr. Shakshuka, and some people scoff about it because it gets a lot of publicity when it’s not necessarily the absolute best. Ottolenghi went there for a telly programme for example, and the guides I was with were very loyal to it. Anyway the point is, it was still the best version of the dish I’ve ever had, so I wanted to replicate it at home.
The first time I tried to do this faithfully, it predictably didn’t work due to differences in ingredients, time of year etc., but it’s quite important to do that sometimes I think, just to really get a handle on a dish. No, honestly. I totally meant to mess it up. Cough. So then I took the best bits of the recipe, adapted them, and came up with this version.
It has merguez sort-of-sausages in it (sorry, vegetarians), which are home made and, I think, rather good. The other points of note are that the sauce contains just chillies, garlic and tomatoes (no peppers or other vegetables) so it’s good and rich, bold in flavour and not inching dangerously towards that ‘I made a dish with the contents of the veg drawer’ flavour which everyone is familiar with, so don’t pretend you’re not. Once the eggs are in, the whites are stirred up a bit so as not to look weird on top, like ghostly cataracts. I hate that.
There’s loads of spicing in the meat which seeps out into the sauce and the whole thing is a big pot of rich breakfast, brunch, dinner, whatever, with absolutely not much going for it in the way of health food nonsense. I’m so tired of this clean eating bullshit. Enjoy it with carbs and lard on top.
My Best Shakshuka Recipe
This makes 14 little merguez sausages which you obviously won’t use in one go, but they freeze well (uncooked) when stored in a tub, and separated by sheets of greaseproof paper.
For the merguez
600g fatty lamb mince
200g beef mince (not lean)
1.5 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoons caraway seeds
1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon harissa
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons chilli powder
For the sauce
3 tins chopped tomatoes of the absolute best quality you can find
1 red chilli, sliced
1 green chilli, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 eggs (or more if you like). I use Clarence Court.
For the garnish
Toast and grind the whole spices, then mix together with all the other ingredients for the merguez plus some salt (be generous). Shape into 14 sausage shapes which should weigh around 75g each. Save six for the shakshuka, then wrap the others in layers of greaseproof (so they don’t stick together) and freeze or refrigerate.
Add about 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or other cooking oil) into a frying pan and heat, then gently fry the garlic and chilli for a couple of minutes. Add the merguez, tomatoes and some salt and allow to cook on medium-high heat for around 5 minutes. Do not stir. Gently turn the merguez, then add the eggs in between them and continue to cook until the eggs are set. When the whites are starting to cook, gently break them up, leaving the yolks intact. Serve sprinkled with spring onion and coriander. Serve yoghurt and toast on the side.