This is one of those meals that speaks to the soul. Growing up, I would often have shakshuka in my grandmother’s cozy Amman kitchen during my childhood vacations in Jordan. That would be the beginning of my lifelong passion for cooking. My paternal grandmother Nema’s enthusiasm was evident by the way that she poured her heart into the foods she would make. Everything that she cooked would not be complete without a healthy dose of love.
Sittee Nema later passed her knowledge to my Spanish mother, (despite the fact that they did not speak the same language) who then passed down the basics of Levantine cooking to me. I always think it is splendid how food can transcend cultures, languages, and traditions. My mother’s Spanish family loved Palestinian food. And my Palestinian family could not get enough of Spanish and Caribbean cooking. They adored each other, even though they communicated through expressions, hand gestures, and the universal language of love.
This shakshuka recipe is inspired by those beautiful moments that involved my loved ones getting together, sharing a pan, and breaking bread to dip into this luscious concoction. It is hearty, rich, nourishing, warming, and delicious. It is home.
I hope you enjoy it as much as my family and I do.
INGREDIENTS/ SERVES 3
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
pinch chili flakes
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
handful kalamata olives, pitted, coarsely chopped, optional
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups finely chopped tomatoes, or tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon paprika, sweet or spicy
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
salt, to your taste
good grinding freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup (118 ml.) water
1 cup cooked chickpeas, canned is fine
fresh cilantro/ coriander or parsley, for garnish
1. Sauté the onion in the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes or until soft and tender. Stir in the chili flakes, garlic, olives, and thyme. Cook for another 3 minutes while stirring. Careful stir in the tomatoes, paprika, turmeric, salt, pepper, tomato paste, water, and chickpeas. Bring to a simmer.
2. With a spoon in one hand and an egg in another, scoop out a space in the pan and drop the egg into it. This will allow the egg to cook easier, but if you find it difficult to manage doing this quick enough, feel free to drop the egg on top of the sauce. You may have to cook the eggs for a couple of more minutes. After repeating this step for all the eggs, leave to cook for 10-12 minutes over medium heat. Cover the shakshuka during the last 3-5 minutes to cook the surface of the eggs to your liking.
3. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a dollop of labaneh or greek yogurt if you like. Serve right away and enjoy with some freshly toasted bread.