Anyone who has been over to my house in the last year knows that I've recently become obsessed with shakshuka, a popular egg-based dish in Israel and North Africa. Like the great debate over jollof rice in West Africa, there is a large ongoing debate regarding the origins of shakshuka. Some believe it originated in Morroco, where it was first known as Chakchouka, a Berber word meaning "all mixed up." Others say it appeared in Turkey in the heyday of the Ottoman Empire, where it was often accompanied by spicy sausage. In Israel, at least we can trace the beginning of shakshuka's popularity to the Tunisian and Maghrebi Jew immigration wave during the 1950s. Still others believe shakshuka comes from Yemen, where it is served with zhoug, a hot green paste.
With all of these different versions and tales of the origin of shakshuka, it is hard to call any recipe truly "authentic." However, the basic elements of any good shakshuka remain poached eggs in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions.
For my own personal twist, I like to add some paprika, cumin, and curry powder. And, if my guests can handle the heat, a few chilies. I was a little heavy-headed with the chillies this time around, so I added a homemade avocado paste to help reduce the heat (a quick fix if you think you've been a bit overzealous). For the avocado paste, simply cut, peel and mash an avocado. I also seasoned my paste with a bit of lemon juice and kosher salt.
Some people like to sop up their shakshuka with bread, but I prefer to eat it with rice. Since I'm in Ghana and attempting to add a little tropical flavor to my kitchen adventures, I made coconut rice and garnished it with a few cashews.
I picked up some guinea fowl eggs while I was in northern Togo, so I substituted those for chicken eggs. I also added some quail eggs that I bought at the Goethe Institute First Saturday Market in Cantonments, Accra. In the US, you may be able to find these types of speciality eggs at Whole Foods, which also happens to have ostrich eggs if you're feeling particularly adventurous.
6-8 quail or guinea fowl eggs (If unavailable, substitute 4 - 6 chicken eggs)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeno or other chili, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
Salt to taste
1 cup water
- Heat the vegetable oil on medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes before adding the chili and garlic. Keep sautéing for a couple of minutes until the mixture is soft. This shouldn't take too long.
- Stir the tomatoes into the onion mix and cook until the tomato becomes soft.
- Add the spices and salt. Cook until the mixture is fragrant.
- Add water. Reduce the heat after the water begins bubbling.
- Crack the eggs into the curry sauce and cook until the eggs are done. If you like your poached eggs runny, it should only take a couple of minutes. If you like the yolks to be firm, cover the pan with a lid and cook for a few minutes. If you are using guinea fowl eggs, note that they will be much harder to crack than chicken eggs.
My coconut rice is fairly simple -- and most importantly quick if you don't have that much time.
2 cups Thai jasmine rice
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Rinse and drain the rice.
- Add the rice, coconut milk and salt to a saucepan.
- Place the pot over high hit and bring the liquid to a boil.
- Stir then reduce the heat and cover the bot with a lid and continue cooking for 15 - 20 minutes.
- Fluff with a fork, then cover and let sit for 5 more minutes.