Emily’s Home Cooking

Shakshuka & Harissa

Shakshuka is a comfort food that has gained popularity at many chic brunch establishments in the United States of late, but it has long been a staple meal in North African households throughout the world.

This is one of those dishes that one’s mother is always reported to have made best – think of a homey garden tomato sauce and you will be halfway there – and that is just the kind of challenge that I love.

Shakshuka is also an ideal dish for early fall when the best deals to be had are for blemished, slightly mashed and often cracked ripe tomatoes straight from the field (the same reason I’ve added some of the season’s last zucchini) and a good dish to remember during the cold months when canned tomatoes are best enjoyed.

In short, this rustic meal consists of eggs simmered in ripe tomatoes, peppers, and spices and served with a cooling dollop of yogurt (thick, sheeps-milk labneh if you want to be a purist) and fresh bread or pita for mopping up the beautiful sauce created when the tomato mingles with egg yolk.

The dish is mainly seasoned with harissa, a Tunisian chili paste which can be bought at the grocery store for easy – but you should know that it is rather satisfying to make your own, particularly when sweet peppers and chilis are still available locally as they are now.

I have included the recipes below, both adaptations from ‘Jerusalem,’ Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s lovely collaborative cookbook. 

Shakshuka Ingredients:

Ripe tomatoes (4-6, extra-large dice)
Red sweet pepper (1, large dice)
Zucchini (1, large dice)
Garlic (3 cloves, minced)
Harissa (2 tablespoons)
Tomato paste (1 tablespoon)
Cumin (1 teaspoon)
Salt (1 teaspoon)
Olive oil (2 tablespoons)
Eggs (4-6)
Yogurt (1 cup, for serving)
Fresh pita (or other good bread)

Shakshuka Method:

Add oil to a hot pan over medium-high heat, then add garlic, red pepper, and zucchini. 
Cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables have begun to brown and soften.

Add salt, cumin, tomato paste, harissa, and tomatoes, stirring well, and turn down the heat to medium. 

Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down and the sauce has begun to thicken. 

Create small wells in the sauce with the back of the spoon for the eggs. (You may crack them into a small bowl first to avoid eggshell-bits or the occasional bad egg).

At this point you may cover your pan tightly and continue to simmer for 6-8 minutes while your eggs cook, or if your pan is oven-safe you can move it uncovered into a hot oven (about 375) for 4-6 minutes. 

(These times are entirely dependent on the size of your eggs, so keep a close eye and pull them as soon as they have set until you are practiced at this).

Serve at once with yogurt and bread and enjoy!

Harissa Ingredients:

Red onion (4 tablespoons, minced)
Garlic (4 cloves, minced)
Red sweet pepper (Roasted & diced)
Hot chili peppers (2-3, minced)
Tomato paste (2 teaspoons)
Cumin (1 teaspoon)
Coriander (1 teaspoon)
Olive oil (2 tablespoons)
Lemon juice (fresh-squeezed, 2 tablespoons)

Harissa Method:

Add oil to a pan over medium-high heat, then add red onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to become toasted and brown. 

Add cumin and coriander, stir, and allow spices to toast until you begin to smell them. 

Add hot chili peppers and tomato paste and cook for one more minute, then remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add lemon juice and roasted pepper, and then blend your harissa into a thick paste.

This will make about 1/2 a cup, enough for several batches of shakshuka, and covered tightly and refrigerated will keep for up to two weeks.