My Best Shakshuka Recipe

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

Spring onions

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.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Leila December 16, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Looks brill. Bookmarked! I’ve also made cheaty, quick versions with chorizo and nduja – not very authentic but still have that spicy, meaty vibe (definitely not clean eating).
    DEFINITELY needs to be served with yoghurt.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen December 16, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      Yes but both of those have a very similar effect! Meat fat, basically. Meat fat and spice. Mmm.

  • Avatar
    Reply Deborah December 16, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    I recently went a bit overboard ordering spices so I actually have everything on this list to make this–including carbs and lard! haha I eat fairly healthy but I don’t need to be constantly reminded of its virtues!. (I WISH I could get some really fine lard here-I’d love to make tortillas and it’s pretty necessary to use lard as I understand it–Anyway, can’t wait to make this one, thank you!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen December 17, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      Let me know what you think! I feel sorry for you not being able to get decent lard…wherever you are. Sounds hellish 😉

      • Avatar
        Reply Deborah December 23, 2015 at 6:53 pm

        I’m in Hawaii and there is a Latino community, not as big as the Asian, but still there, so I’m sure someone has good lard–probably a small corner grocery instead of the major ones–I just need to find it!
        Helen, have a Merry Christmas! (Mele Kalikimaka 🙂 )

  • Avatar
    Reply Niamh December 18, 2015 at 11:49 am

    This looks lovely, Helen! One of my favourites, Shakshuka, and this looks like a great one. I have been making kefta tagine at home recently too, not too dissimilar. I keep meaning to blog it.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen December 18, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      Ooh lovely. I love a tagine (TADGE as we call it in this house like the idiots that we are), as long as they’re not bland. So many are bland! I can imagine the kefte ensure that it isn’t.

      • Avatar
        Reply Niamh December 19, 2015 at 11:38 am

        The kefte is fabulous and has great flavour, small spiced meatballs and poached egg yolks (I discard the white before but will try your technique here too).

  • Avatar
    Reply Deepa December 23, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Great recipe! Definitely going to try this. Really it isn’t that bad for you, none of the things in it are processed, that is what bugs me about clean eating – things like eggs, meat and oil aren’t even allowed!

  • Avatar
    Reply Kludge February 18, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    No simmering the tomatoes for a bit?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves February 19, 2016 at 6:06 am

      Yes that’s in the recipe ‘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.’

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