Shakshouka History – I’m not sure where I stumbled upon a picture of it, but I knew we had to try Shakshouka. The ingredient list sounded like an amalgamation of flavors that reminded me of my mom’s awesome Spanish hamburger minus the hamburger, but with eggs. For those who know me, it should come as no surprise that I felt compelled to do a little research on the history of this wonderful Middle Eastern dish. 🤓
Also spelled shakshuka, the eggs are poached in a sauce of diced tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions, with cumin, chili powder, and other spices. In Arabic slang, it means “a mixture,” but some believe it may have a Tunisian origin due to the common surname of Chakchouk in that country. However, it’s more than likely derived from the Berber word chakchouka meaning vegetable ragout. This seems more likely to me since that’s exactly what it is. The theory that it’s from the Hebrew word “leshakshek” meaning “to shake” seems a stretch. I didn’t shake anything while making it. 😄
Regardless of its origins, it’s been very popular in Israel, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, and Morocco for a long time. And it’s very similar to the Mexican dish huevos rancheros, Spanish pisto manchego, and the Turkish dish menemen.
Shakshouka is often made in a clay tajine
or cast iron pan and accompanied by bread to sop up the sauce. Sometimes I get a hankering to cook over an open fire like my ancestors. How cool would it be to have a big iron kettle hanging from a tripod in the backyard? The first thing I’d make would be this Hungarian Goulash. (And don’t be surprised if you see future posts featuring yummy foods cooked in a tajine, too!)
Some cooks add artichoke hearts or potatoes, which sounds great! But I’m thinking a base of browned turkey sausage would take this dish over the top. It’s served for breakfast, lunch, or supper with a nice side salad. According to Wikipedia: “It has been said to challenge hummus and falafel as a national favorite, especially in the winter. According to some food historians, the dish was invented in the Ottoman Empire, spreading throughout the Middle East and Spain, where it is often served with spicy sausage. Another belief is that it hails from Yemen, where it is served with zhug, a hot green paste. Some versions include salty cheeses.” I can’t see how adding cheese would ever be a bad idea. Next time. 😋
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 2 tsp. minced jarred garlic
- 1 medium green or red bell pepper, diced
- 2 cans (14 oz. each) diced tomatoes (or 4 cups ripe diced tomatoes)
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tbsp. garam masala
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tbsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 5-6 eggs
- 1/2 tbsp. parsley (optional, for garnish)
- Bread for dipping (optional)
In a deep, large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften.
Reduce heat to medium and add the bell pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes until softened.
Add tomato paste and stir till blended. Stir in diced tomatoes, spices, and sugar to taste. Simmer for 4-5 minutes. Don’t cook away all the juices, you want it nice and saucy.
Press the back of your mixing spoon into the tomato mixture to make 5 or 6 slight depressions to hold each egg. Crack them one at a time directly into each space. Depending on how you prefer your eggs, cover and cook anywhere from 3-5 minutes for solid whites with runny yokes to 5-8 minutes for hard eggs. There is no need to turn them over.
Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with delicious naan bread.
Happy eating! 😊