Simple shakshuka

Do you ever experience that thing where you hear about something or read about something you’ve never heard of before for the first time, and then happen to stumble across it lots of times again within a few days? No?

Okay, well anyway, this is what happened to me with shakshuka (also known as shakshouka/ chakchouka/ a few other variants). I read about it on a blog, then saw a similar dish on another blog a couple of days later, then Hugh Fearnley-Whatsisface did it on his River Cottage Veg Every Day programme (recipe here or in the book which accompanies the series, which I can recommend whether you’re vegetarian or not).

This recipe is my own version of shakshuka, which falls into my ‘handy vegetarian midweek dinner’ repertoire. It’s nothing fancy, yet I always especially look forward to eating it. I think it’s because the process of mopping up the eggy, tomato-ey sauce reminds me of dippy egg and soldiers (that’s a boiled egg and toast to the uninitiated) or of mopping up the remnants of a fried breakfast with a bit of bread and butter.

Ingredients

  • A red pepper
  • A yellow pepper
  • An orange pepper
  • An onion
  • Sea salt
  • A heaped tablespoonful of cumin seeds
  • Four cloves of garlic, crushed
  • A red chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • Two teaspoonfuls of smoked paprika
  • A tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Four eggs

De-seed and thinly slice the peppers and peel and thinly slice the onion. Put this all in a large shallow pan (use one with a lid if you can as you’ll need it later) with a bit of flavourless oil and a generous pinch of sea salt and fry on a medium heat until everything is softening nicely and the onion is turning translucent.

Add the cumin seeds, garlic and chilli and continue to fry gently until everything has cooked down and is smelling fragrant.

Add the paprika and chopped tomatoes (I like to whizz my tomatoes in a food processor first because I’m a bit like that) and stir everything together. Cook for a further five or ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Now, make four ‘wells’ in the peppery, tomato-y mixture as best you can. Break an egg into each ‘well’ and leave to cook on a medium heat with a lid on the pan, allowing the eggs to cook in the steam as well as the heat from the bottom of the pan. Once the egg whites are well on their way to turning opaque, I like to finish the whole thing off by putting the pan under a medium grill for a few minutes. Alternatively, you could allow them to finish cooking on the hob. You want the eggs to be cooked through, but still runny.

Divide between two and serve with a wodge of bread for moppage.

By the way, shakshuka isn’t the most photogenic of dishes. I can assure you it tastes a lot nicer than it looks…

Beef Tagine

I’m not going to advertise this as any kind of ‘authentic’ tagine recipe (although I’m not sure what that might even be), nor is it cooked in a proper tagine pot (although it could be for anyone who has one). I’ve never even been to North Africa. It’s just my interpretation of a beef tagine that I cook fairly regularly in the slow cooker and it tastes good, which is what’s important. The slow cooker has the same effect as a tagine pot, cooking the meat slowly so that it’s nice and tender.

I don’t tend to add dried fruit to tagines because Owen has a weird thing about dried fruit in savoury food, but you could easily chuck some in to this recipe. Perhaps some dried apricots or figs or whatever you fancy.

Ingredients

  • 60g dried chickpeas
  • A level tablespoonful of caraway seeds
  • A level tablespoonful of cumin seeds
  • A level tablespoonful of coriander seeds
  • A teaspoon of ground coriander
  • A teaspoon of ground cumin
  • A teaspoon of ground ginger
  • A teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • A teaspoon of paprika (not smoked)
  • 500g beef stewing steak, cut into chunks
  • A handful of flaked almonds
  • An onion, sliced into half moons
  • 1 or 2 red peppers, chopped into small chunks or strips
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes or a red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • A tablespoon of cornflour
  • A tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Half a large preserved lemon
  • A tablespoon of honey
  • A beef stock cube

Soak the chickpeas overnight or for at least 8 hours in plenty of water with a bit of bicarbonate of soda added to it.

Into a large, deep, dry frying pan, add the caraway, cumin and coriander seeds and toast on a medium heat until they start to become aromatic but without burning them. Add the seeds from the pan into a pestle and mortar and bash until they’re powdery and fragrant. Add the bashed seeds along with the ground coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon and paprika to a bowl with the beef chunks and rub with clean hands to coat the meat. Set this aside for a moment.

Add the flaked almonds to the dry pan and toast them on a medium heat until they start to colour, but again, don’t let them burn. When they’re nicely toasted, add them to the pestle and mortar and bash them gently to break them up a bit. Set aside.

Brown the spice rub-covered meat in batches in the dry pan and remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl.

Add a small glug of oil to the pan and fry the onion and peppers on a medium heat until the onion turns translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and fry for a couple of minutes more.

Add the cornflour and stir in until it’s coated in oil.

Add the tinned tomatoes (whizzing them first in a food processor if you like), then refill the tin a third full with water and swill around to get the remainder of the tomato-y goodness. Add this water to the pan as well.

Remove the flesh from the preserved lemon with a spoon and discard. Finely chop the remaining lemon peel and add to the pan.

Add the honey and crumble in the beef stock cube, and drain and add the chickpeas. Add the browned meat along with any juices.

Stir everything together before putting into the slow cooker and cooking on low for 6-8 hours. Serve with cous cous, and maybe sprinkle some more toasted almonds on top to finish.