Long weekends are for slow food, aren’t they? In our treehouse apartment, we sleep late and brunch slowly, making a circuitous putter around the apartment that gradually becomes both identifiably cleaner and more delicious – clear countertop, watered plants, a waft of coffee, the sizzle of something on the stove. Dave’s usually the driving force in our weekend wake up meals, but last week I recruited him as sautéer in this breakfast experiment – Ottolenghi’s shakshuka.
If, like me, you’ve never heard of shakshuka before, you could also call it eggs poached in a chunky sauce of bell peppers, tomatoes and onions, seasoned with cumin & fresh herbs. Doesn’t that description double as a reason to try it? And aren’t Ontario tomatoes at their most abundant right now? And shouldn’t the end of summer be delicious? Serve with your favourite toasted bread to soak up the extra sauce, & have a happy long weekend.
Notes: Ottolenghi mentions that the first two steps – the creation of the sauce – can be done ahead of time, and I recommend that, especially if you’re feeding guests or tend to wake up hungry. Just refrigerate the sauce in the interim and reheat it until simmering before continuing with Step 3. Also worth noting is that Step 3 assumes you have a tight-fitting lid for your largest frying pan. We don’t and used a same-sort-of-size wok lid instead, which worked in the grand scheme of things but didn’t seal in the heat, and the eggs took quite a bit longer to poach as a result. Win some, lose some. If you don’t keep saffron in your kitchen, you can skip it; and if you forget to add the parsley & cilantro while cooking and only think to use them as a garnish (which we may or may not have done), the finished product will still make for a pretty stellar start to the day.
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2/3 cup olive oil
2 large onions, sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch strips
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch strips
4 tsp brown sugar
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked & chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped (plus extra for garnish)
6 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp saffron threads
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt & pepper
up to 1 1/2 cup water
1. In a large frying pan set over high heat, toast cumin seeds for 2 minutes. Add oil and onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add peppers, sugar, bay leaves, thyme, parsley & cilantro. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 5-10 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes, saffron, cayenne, and salt & pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook, simmering, for 15 minutes. The mixture should remain sauce-like; add water if needed.
3. Remove bay leaves. Bring heat up to medium-low, and nudge the vegetables aside to make a small pocket in the sauce. Crack an egg into the pocket, and repeat with the remaining eggs. Season sparingly with salt and cover, cooking for 10-15 minutes or until eggs are set. Serve sprinkled with cilantro.