Sunday 21 September 2014

Eggs Poached In Spicy Tomato Relish: Shakshouka

The Berber word for “the mix,” I am told. This dish is made in various forms all over North Africa and the Middle East, perhaps even up to Turkey and Greece. A gorgeous dish in its simplicity, it holds flavours like you haven't tasted before.

And I was totally ignorant of its existence. That is, until a few days ago. Again, it is a story of the sea. A sailing story, no less. But let me start at the beginning.

My blog is about sailing and cooking on board. Having proper food goes a long way to keep the  morale on board high, especially during spells of inclement weather. Which, in the Cape of Storms, is often. So I am always on the lookout for decent recipes that can be cooked aboard a boat heaving and pitching in choppy seas. Your galley and stove do not stand still like at home.

On a recent sailing expedition to our neighbouring village of Simon's Town, we had a long discussion on this very subject. Of course the weather was balmy and we had lots of time for talk. Soon the topic went to food. Sailors on board do seem to be forever hungry.

My friend Vic then came out with this recipe of poaching eggs in a tomato relish. And it hit me that we have lots of tomatoes here in South Africa. So much so that you get canned tomato relish, complete with onions and even spices. Tomato relish is very popular here, to be had with a boerewors roll (a local version of a hot dog) or with maize pap (a very thick maize porridge, even crumbly) along with your braai. (Barbecued meat).

After a short research on the internet I found a myriad of recipes. These vary according to regional tastes. The Moroccan version using slightly different spices than those made towards the Middle east.

The ingredients all include lots of tomatoes and onions. Garlic is common and so is a hot chilli. Some sweet pepper are also in the mix. Spices vary, but include paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Simple.

The dish appears to be Berberic in origin, real desert dwellers. No time for long-winded food preparation. So we expect the preparation process to be simple as well.

I pondered this for a while, then decided to go with the standard process, chunky chopped ingredients. No tomato paste or -puree. Basic spices, keeping it simple.

This dish came out way beyond my expectations. Granted, it was the first time I made tomato relish with cumin and paprika, but the result was worth it. And the process is a no-brainer. Budget two eggs and three medium sized tomatoes per person. The rest of the ingredients are for additional flavour and texture.

The dish is suitable as a main dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Add some barbecued sausage (read boerewors) for lunch or dinner. You will not need a starch with this, it is quite filling, especially when made with real butter instead of just oil. An out and out Banting dish, for sure.

Use a deep pan or shallow casserole. You need to poach all the eggs at once. The pan needs a lid too. This is a one pot dish.

Here goes.

Ingredients for two people

2 large eggs per person
3 tomatoes per person, chopped coarsely
½ sweet bell pepper, chopped coarsely
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 dried chilli, chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika I used sweet smoked paprika
some salt
some ground pepper
some butter for frying


Fry the onions and sweet peppers in butter until the onions go nice and brown, then add the garlic and chilli and fry for fifteen seconds. Then add the chopped tomatoes. Mix thoroughly and bring to the boil. Simmer until the fluid has reduced a little. Check for and add salt as required, the dish may be quite fresh. The dish needs to be quite dry, definitely not runny. Pat the relish flat, then make a dent for each egg. Break the eggs carefully in each dent.

This is where you may also do lots of creative things. Some recipes break the eggs so you end with something of a frittata. Others keep the eggs whole as per normal poached eggs. Sprinkle the pepper, paprika and cumin over the lot, then put the lid on and reduce the heat. Simmer for at least ten minutes.

You can make the dish with the eggs soft and runny or hard, it is up to you. Make sure that the relish is almost done and not  too watery before adding the eggs. You are not making soup.

There won't be leftovers, I'm afraid. That is what my friend told me, and that was my exact experience. Be careful, the relish is very hot.

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2014-09-21

Friday 12 September 2014

Paella En El Estilo Del Momento

Paella in the style of the moment. This is hopefully a proper translation.

Having been at sea for two solid months with lots of cooking, I took a rest. But recently I felt the urge for being creative again. Summer is almost here and my paella pan is hanging on the wall, gathering dust, not having been used much as a result of my seafaring activities. This is a good pointer to a stir-fried dish or a paella.

After some deliberation the choice fell on a paella. But the pan is too big to make a dish for two people. No problem. I have friends. So, after a phone call or two a dinner date was arranged. Ten guests. Thanks to my friends Tony and Marjo, I had a venue, the ingredients and guests to boot!

What remained was to think up something new.

A paella is very easy to make, but I was looking for a new way of doing things. Perhaps in the preparation. An eclectic mix of ingredients do not tickle my fancy. Paella is supposed to be a simple, almost rustic dish. Not complicated.

The answer was lurking in the process. How do I get more flavour in the dish without using external chemical means. Read spicy mixes. The idea came to me from methods more often used in making stews. You can add stock from external sources, but it seemed more fun to use the stock already in the pan.

This line of reasoning led to a sequence of frying the ingredients that would leave some caramelised  residue in the pan to be soaked up by the sauces later, before the dish gets too dry. Very much like making a stew or a risotto. Most of the stock is created by frying the ingredients itself.

The choice of the day fell on a mixed paella, easy to make and open to experimentation. The only caveat is not to burn the ingredients, because then you start over.

This recipe is well known in the paella world, being mostly chicken, with a spruce-up of prawns and mussels making it a mixed paella. I decided to go with turmeric and saffron, instead of a smoked paprika. The chourizo sausages in the dish would provide sufficient smokiness to the overall flavour. I also used proper Spanish short grain rice. There is a slight difference in flavour to the long grain rice and the dish also tends to be a bit drier than when using long grain rice. Which makes it a paella as opposed to a risotto, I guess.

In the end I used some additional chicken stock. Use the best you can get with the least chemical content. The spring onions are chopped into thumb size lengths as garnish with the peas. The green, leafy part of the stems are chopped up finely as garnish with the coriander leaves. A paella needs to be done using olive oil. Olive oil will add to the authentic taste. But you may use any vegetable oil, they all are suitable.

This dish is enough for ten to fifteen people. I used my 42cm /16 ½ inch paella pan obtainable in South Africa from Perfect Paella in Cape Town. I am pretty sure that this type of pan is reasonably available all over the world.


1 kg short grain rice
2,5 kg chicken breast fillets, cubed and dried
2 chourizo sausages, they are about 150-200mm long (6-8”), sliced finely.
1 kg blanched prawn tails
500 g shelled mussels
3 medium onions
3 medium tomatoes, chopped coarsely
2 hot Thai chillies, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
4 spring onions for garnish
1/ cup of fresh coriander leaves, chopped coarsely for garnish
2 cups frozen peas
1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
6 saffron stalks in a cup of boiling water
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
some salt to taste
1 l chicken stock
400ml dry white wine
Some olive oil for frying


Make sure the chicken cubes are quite dry. Start by frying the chourizo sausages in the pan with some oil. Once these are done to a nice brown colour, remove them from the pan and fry the chicken cubes. Do it in batches, otherwise you tend to get lots of fluid, in which case you are boiling the meat, not frying it. I had to bail the pan twice to get rid of all the chicken juice. I kept this with the stock for use later. When the chicken is done, remove it all and keep warm.

Then start the onions. Once the onions are getting to a nice brown colour, add the chilies, coriander seeds and garlic. Fry these for thirty seconds, then add the chopped tomato. Once these are all going nicely, add the rice. The caramelised bits will have come off the bottom of the pan and into the sauces.

Fry the rice for a while to take up the flavours, then add the wine. Cook the lot until the wine reduces, somewhat, then add chicken stock a little bit at a time. Make sure the dish doesn't burn. After the chicken stock you add water as required until the rice has swollen enough to be almost edible. The add the prawns and the mussels. They don't need much cooking. Stir the dish to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Add the saffron, pepper and turmeric at this stage. Keep adding water as required, keeping the dish only just fluid.

Add the chicken and chourizo back to the dish. Test for saltiness, the dish may be too fresh still.

Add the chopped spring onions and the peas just before the dish is done. Allow the dish to rest for ten to fifteen minutes. Add the coriander and spring onion leaves as garnish. Arrange it artistically, your friends would love it. I cut some rings from a red bell pepper as further garnish.

Then dish up. This dish goes very well with a dry white wine.

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2014-09-12