Mediterranean and Middle Eastern inspired food is by far my favoured cuisine. The flavours are always fresh and powerful with rich tomato and tahini based sauces, plenty of fresh herbs and a world of fresh and dry spices to choose from. A dish that caught my eye last summer when perusing through ‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi was shakshuka. A breakfast dish of baked eggs on a paprika spiced ragu of peppers, tomatoes and in some cases chorizo. Since discovering this dish, it has actually become a popular staple on many trendy breakfast menus in both London and Melbourne. I must warn you though, some restaurants/cafes will try to trick you and just dump a couple of fried eggs on some tomato sauce… so. not. cool. If you fancy a warm, savoury, filling brunch packed full of flavour, this is the dish for you. I never got to make the Ottolenghi recipe, though I ogled over it many times, today, however, I thought I would just invent my own version, and it is bloody delicious (eating of said dish is happening as I write). Being a non chorizo eater, my base is a paprika spiced form of ratatouille with the addition of cauliflower for texture and flavour variation. I like making my ratatouille early on in the day so it has time to cook down properly, become deliciously soft and really absorb all the sweet acidic flavours of the tomato. This dish is highly adaptable and with the exception of aubergine and red peppers, which are a must, you could add a host of different vegetables…. I would recommend cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and courgette as all cook down and absorb flavour very well. I found it shamefully hard to avoid writing eggplant, capsicum, and zucchini – time to go home soon?
For the sauce/ratatouille/base:
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic
1 Large Red (bell) Pepper
1 Medium Aubergine
1 Tin Diced Tomatoes
1/2 Tin-full Boiling Water
S ‘n’ P
Baked Eggs :
2 Per Person
Cut up all your veggies in preparation; put the aubergine in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt to draw out the water and the bitter flavour of the aubergine. leave from about half an hour before rinsing.
Heat the oil in a pan. Fry over the garlic briefly on a low heat for about 20 seconds. Add the pepper and let it cook downs little, for about 5 minutes before adding the aubergine. Fry this over, adding a bit more oil if necessary, it shouldn’t be too oily nor sticking to the pan. At this point, you could also add some courgette or mushrooms if you fancied!
Once the aubergine has softened slightly add the cauliflower cut into small chunks and sprinkle generously with non smoked paprika. Give everything a good stir and add a tin of chopped tomato.
Then add 1/2 to a full tin again of boiling water depending on your quantity of veggies added,the water should not almost but not cover the veggies. You could also add a tablespoon of tomato concentrate at this point if you had some to hand…. It is a very adaptable recipe!
Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, a few dashes or Worcester sauce and a generous sprinkle of salt an pepper. Bring to a boil, and let is simmer for about 40 minutes making sure the liquid does not all evaporate, it should be a chunky sauce /stew like consistency by the end. Best served warm but not piping, and even better served after a day for the flavours to develop.
Ladel a couple of spoonfuls frying pan, pop on a low simmering heat and crack a couple of eggs over the top to bake… Takes about 12 minutes. Great with crusty white sourdough.