Hey everyone, and welcome back to Thyme Flies! This week, we’ll be exploring the cuisine of North Africa, a region known for its rich history, culture, and of course, food. Specifically, we’ll cook Shakshuka or شكشوكة /שקשוקה, a culinary staple developed in North Africa but popular around the region. This dish, a spicy tomato-pepper-onion-egg stew, pairs perfectly with flatbread, so we’ll pair it with a fresh, greek herb flatbread!
This dish carries an incredibly interesting history. Tomato stews entered Arab diets after the Columbian exchange with the Americas, which brought tomatoes, bell peppers, and other common ingredients. Many of these stews contained mince lamb, with various vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, and potato. Tunisian Jewish communities switched the meat out for eggs, a popular ingredient with Tunisian Jews, and settled on tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers for the sauce base. From here, shakshuka spread around the region through Jewish communities to become a staple in Middle Eastern/North African diets.
First, we’ll make the flatbread, which takes the longest. This consists of simple household ingredients: butter, milk, flour, and seasonings. When seasoning the flatbread, I use rosemary, garlic, and oregano to create a Mediterranean taste.
- 475ml flour
- 2.5ml salt
- 50g butter
- 185ml milk
- Olive oil for cooking
Large mixing bowl
- Melt butter and milk into one mixture. Meanwhile, measure out flour into a large mixing bowl and season with spices.
- Mix butter/milk mixture into flour, kneading until one cohesive mixture (make sure not to over-knead, as the bread will become chewy)
- Separate the dough into 4 balls and roll out until thin enough for cooking (around 1/4cm)
- Coat the flatbread in olive oil and place it on a pan to cook. Flip when the first half is crispy and brown.
- After one piece of flatbread is cooked, heat your oven to 50 degrees and place flatbread in to keep warm.
Now, we’ll cook a simple, traditional tomato-pepper-onion shakshuka. I recommend you buy the onion and pepper at the Thursday market for freshness and price. Mercadona has a perfectly sized can of peeled tomatoes which we’ll also use. From the spice rack, we’ll utilize salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin, all of which are available at Dia, Carrefour Express, and Mercadona.
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 sweet onion
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 5ml cumin
- 13ml paprika
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 900ml peeled, canned tomatoes
- 6 large eggs
- Fresh, chopped cilantro
- Olive oil for pan frying
- Cilantro for garnish
1 large pan
1 large saucepan
- Chop and pan fry onions and peppers for 5 minutes, or until onions are clear.
- Add in garlic, paprika, and cumin, continue frying for 2 minutes.
- Transfer cooked mixture to saucepan and add in the canned tomatoes. Chop up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon in the mixture.
- Let the mixture simmer until relatively thick, then season to taste. Add the eggs on top.
- Cover the pot and allow eggs to poach depending on your preferred texture. When the eggs are done, you’re ready to serve!
Now, it’s time to plate! Place a piece of flatbread and a spoonful or two of shakshuka onto your dish (make sure you get an egg), sprinkle some cilantro on, and enjoy!
In our next issue, we’ll travel to China, where we’ll explore dishes such as dumplings and fried rice. Until then, keep on cooking!
- Justin Morgan