A few summers ago, I was enjoying my holidays with my family on a lovely tropical island, when a man of arabic roots arrived at the resort with his wives. One of these lovely ladies, was the cook, as the man didn’t always agree with the taste of the hotel’s chef. Every morning, the lady cook, brought to the breakfast table, a skillet filled with tomato sauce and eggs. I couldn’t help but ask the lady how she cooked this tasty dish. She very politely offered me a taste of this unique breakfast. And what a pleasure that was. Fresh eggs poached in a spicy, thick tomato sauce, seasoned with a generous amount of cumin, sprinkled with fresh coriander and served with labneh (see note) and crusty bread. Divine!
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 Tbs olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 red chilli pepper, without seeds, finely chopped (or ¼- ½ teaspoon chilli powder)
- ½ cup parsley, chopped
- ½ cup fresh coriander, chopped
- 800 grams grated tomatoes (from a carton or jar)
- 2 Tbs tomato paste
- 1 tsp paprica
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 fresh eggs
In a large skillet, dry fry the cumin seeds, over medium heat, stirring all the time, until fragrant and slightly darker in colour. Put in a bowl until needed.
In the same skillet add the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, bell pepper and chilli pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until vegetables are soft and cooked. Add the parsley, coriander, grated tomatoes, tomato paste, paprica and cumin seeds. Mix with a spoon and lower the heat. Simmer the tomato sauce until thickened, stirring occasionally. The sauce must be quite thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Using a spoon, make 6 wells in the tomato sauce. Crack the eggs in the wells, taking care not to break the yolks. Cover the pot and cook until eggs are cooked but yolk is still runny.
Serve «Shakchuka» with labneh, or thick greek yogurt and crusty bread
Note: You may have tasted Labneh in arabic restaurants. Sometimes it’s served as a cheese spread on toast. In other occasions, you will find it served in a plate, drizzled with olive oil, thyme and sesame seeds. It’s very easy to prepare at home. Fill a fine cheesecloth with thick, greek yogurt, and leave it to strain in the fridge for 48 hours. Then, you shape it into small balls and keep refrigerated in a jar, covered in olive oil.