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

No comments:

Post a Comment