London's NOPI serves up a fabulous brunch and shakshuka is one of the most popular items on the weekend menu. To the delight of people outside of Ottolenghi stomping grounds, this dish turned up in his best-selling vegetarian cookbook Plenty. The spices in this perfect "make in advance" anytime-of-day treat create a definite palate pleaser. It is the essence of Middle Eastern comfort food and has its own parking space reserved in the refrigerator-nearly every week it becomes a hearty weekday breakfast for five hungry children, a late night snack for teenage boys, or an impressive brunch plate for weekend gatherings. The olive oil in the original recipe is a bit much for everyday cooking--the recipe below reflects a less heavy hand. Otherwise, this recipe is classic Ottolenghi. Cook the eggs to your liking. However, a runny yolk adds a certain brilliance to the taste of the dish when it blends with the tomatoe, pepper and onion mixture.
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook Plenty.
Nota bene: When doubling this recipe, do not double the olive oil.
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil
2 large onions, sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
1 orange bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
1 (28-ounce) box of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
4 teaspoons muscovado sugar
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
6 ripe small tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
Kosher salt and pepper
Up to 1 1/8 cups water
8 to 12 eggs
1. In a large skillet dry-roast the cumin seeds on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar and herbs and continue cooking on high heat for 5-10 minutes until mixture has a nice color.
2. Add the boxed and fresh tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavorful. (You can prepare this mix well in advance--it keeps a week in refrigerator.)
3. Remove the bay leaves, then divide the pepper and onion into individual servings in 6 to 8 inch sized stove-top safe vessels.
4. Place the pans on medium heat to warm up, then make a gap in the pepper mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each gap. Use a small spoon to swirl some of the egg white throughout the mixture. One or two eggs per serving. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover the pans with lids. Cook on very gentle heat for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. Best if yolks runny to stir into peppers and onions.
5. Sprinkle with cilantro and transfer pans to trivets on table to serve with buttered toast to sop up the sauce.