Thursday, 17 May 2012

Shakshuka (poached eggs and tomatoes) for Victoria Day Weekend Brunch: A Culinary Icon of Middle Eastern Cuisine

May 2012

SmartCooks here.  

Victoria Day weekend is almost here! Here's a perfect brunch idea perfect for you and guests.  It's a dish called Shakshuka (translated literally as 'mixed up') or basically poached eggs in tomatoes spiced to your liking.

Shakshuka is a low-carb, low-fat, vegetarian, gluten-free, Kosher, easy-to-make, inexpensive, all-round healthy breakfast, brunch, or lunch to enjoy at some point on this long weekend.  I found it in Vegetarian Times and realized I had seen it on other sites as well, like Smitten Kitchen and Saveur

'Shakshuka':  Culinary Icon of Middle Eastern and North African Cuisine

I'd never heard of Shakshuka until reading the current issue of Vegetarian Times.  Research about its roots is a bit muddled.  Everyone seems to claim it as their own.  Some say it originated in Turkey; others say it arrived in the Middle East by way of Libya.  Whatever... today it's an integral part of the fabric of Middle Eastern cuisine, with many bloggers waxing on about the divine meal of Shakshuka they had in Israel or at a Tripoli-based restaurant called Dr. Shakshuka.  In Hungary, the recipe adds lots of paprika. Traditionally, it was a dish made by the men of the household (fine by me if there's one who would like to take it on!).

The key components of the dish are:

- Fresh Tomatoes!  Roma or plum tomatoes are specified in many recipes.  Other recipes called for canned or crushed tomatoes.  I ignored the latter in favour of fresh.  Always fresh if at all possible;  

Spices for a little or moderate 'kick'.  In addition to onion, garlic, and peppers, cooks add a variety of cumin or chili powder, chilies (like a jalapeno. cayenne or Anaheim), red pepper flakes, tumeric, or paprika;

Farm Fresh Eggs.  Cracked on top of the tomato mixture, cooked on the stove top or browned in the oven.
The sauce can be made in advance to cut down prep time and then reheated.  The dish also has a wide variety of extras and sides.  It is almost always garnished with (flat leaf) parsley or feta (optional) and served with bread or pita. Often it is served in its own skillet hot from the oven broiler. 

My favourite recipe is adapted slightly from Vegetarian Times (below), with 151 calories per serving, 9 grams of protein, 15 grams of carbs and low sodium (unless you ramp up the salt!). 

Serves 4 people 

1.5 tsp olive oil
 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 1/3 cup)
 1 red bell pepper, diced (about 1 1/3 cups)
1 jalapeno chili, chopped (about 3 T)
 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tsp)
 8 Roma tomatoes, diced (about 4.5 cups)
 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika (a pungent Hungarian paprika if you want more heat)
 1 T tomato paste
4 large eggs
 3 T chopped parsley
Fresh salt and pepper


Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and bell pepper and sauté 7-9 minutes. 

Add jalapeno, garlic and sauté 1 minute more.  Add tomatoes, cumin, paprike and season with fresh salt and pepper. Cover and cook 2 minutes.  Uncover and cook 6-8 minutes, or until mixture thickens. 

Stir in tomato paste, and cook 1 minute more. Reduce heat to low. 

Make 4 cavities in the tomato mixture with a spoon.  Break 1 egg into small dish, and slip into cavity.  Repeat.  Cover and cook 8-10 min, or until egg whites are set. 

Sprinkle with parsley.  Serve with a variety of extras, like warm pita, feta etc. 


  1. I also just discovered this recipe in Vegetarian Times and made it today. Loved it! I added some feta cheese to the tomato sauce while cooking. It would have been great without it!

  2. It worked out well for Monday brunch. I added a bit of feta and more spice to the leftovers this morning and enjoyed it immensely. I think it's become my new favourite!