Each time I sit down to write a few thousand words of my next novel I am transported to the Middle East and a world of exotic flavours - pyramids of fiery saffron and cumin, bunches of fragrant herbs, dusky green figs, succulent grapes and golden olive oil. Admittedly shakshuka would not have been around in first century Israel - tomatoes did not find their way there until centuries later - but it is certainly a popular dish of the region nowadays.
It's easy to make and is a gourmet alternative to eggs on toast. The thick, harissa laced tomato sauce adds a healthy boost of antioxidants and flavour. I love the fun of cracking eggs straight into their little nests in the sauce and the amazing colours once you sprinkle a little feta and parsley on at the end. Truly delicious!
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
1-2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 x 440g can tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar (enhances the tomato flavour but you can leave it out)
2 teaspoons ras el hanout (a blend of paprika, cumin, ginger, corainder, cassia, turmeric, fennal, allspice, cardamon, dill, galagal, nutmeg, orris root, bay leaves, caraway,cayenne, mace, pepper and saffron)
1/2 teaspoon harissa paste (or more if you like more heat)
1 teaspoon paprika (for the colour)
5 - 6 eggs
Heat olive oil in large pan on moderate heat. Add onion, garlic, capsicum and celery. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add tomatoes, tomato paste and spices. Cook gently for 10-15 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Make dents in sauce and break an egg into each one. Cover pan with lid and cook for a few minutes until eggs are done to your liking. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with feta cheese and parsley.