If there has to be a winter, at least let's have a few days of snow! Apparently February is going to be a proper winters month and hopefully after that, we can look forward to some springtime sun action...
The worst things about this time of year are the colds and flus and viruses and horrible health problems that circulate and hit everyone at some point. At the moment, 4 out of 5 of our house members, myself included, have come down with a cold. It's not fair!
Yesterday, I stayed home in an attempt to recover a little, but I also managed to get up at some point and make myself a fiery hot shakshuka (poached eggs in tomato sauce) - one of my favourite cold remedies. And it was delicious! It's easy to make, ready in about 20 minutes at the most and is bound to make you feel healthy and refreshed afterwards.
Shakshuka, or shakshouka, is said to have Tunisian origin, however its popularity and variations across different countries of the Middle East make it hard to pinpoint whether this is 100% true. Either way - it combines all the beautiful Middle Eastern flavours and is the perfect breakfast or brunch meal.
This is my version, and due to weird cold cravings I included harissa paste for extra spiciness, artichoke hearts for fresh, lemony flavour and sprinkled chopped coriander, toasted flaked almonds and crumbled feta on top. YUM!
Unfinished shakshuka with no toppings except artichokes.
I've got to add, I've got a somewhat newly found addiction to artichokes - as a young child (I must have been about 5 years old?) I had a traumatic experience involving artichokes that meant that I didn't try them again for most of my life.
It went like this: My mum and dad were hosting a dinner party and there was lots of food laid out on the dining table....at that point in time, my culinary tastebuds weren't quite as developed and I mischievously took a big bite out of an artichoke, having mistaken it for a chicken drumstick (apparently my eyes weren't functioning properly either?), which was my favourite food back then. I remember this quite vividly; the taste of artichoke was incredibly offensive to me then. Now that I know how delicious they actually are, I try to include them as much as possible, in a bid to make up for many lost years perhaps.
On another note, this dish also marks the first time that I tried black garlic in cooking - I saw it at the market and was somewhat intrigued, having (perhaps ignorantly so?) never even heard of it. Black garlic is aged white garlic and is almost pastelike as you peel it out of the cloves. The packaging says its flavour is reminiscent of molasses and balsamic reduction and I couldn't agree more - its smell is intense, its taste slightly sweet, and it adds a nice subtle flavour. I've now used it in a risotto as well as in this shakshuka, and out of the two I would say I prefer it in risotto - to me shakshuka benefits from the strong pungent flavour of white garlic. But try it yourself, if you can get your hands on it and decide for yourself!
Without much further ado....my recipe for shakshuka, best served with warm pitta!
Shakshuka with artichoke hearts, feta & almonds
- 2 eggs
- 400g chopped (canned will do) tomatoes
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves of (aged) garlic, finely diced
- 10 pieces of artichoke hearts, preserved in oil
- 1 teaspoon of of crushed pink peppercorns
- 2-3 teaspoons of harissa paste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- a handful of toasted flaked almonds
- a handful of crumbled feta
- a handful of chopped coriander
- Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and lightly sautÃ© the onions on medium to low heat for about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and pink peppercorns, toss for another minute or so, then add the chopped tomatoes and cook on medium to high heat.
- After a few minutes, add the harissa paste and lemon juice, stir frequently and season to taste.
- The paste needs to cook for at least another 5 minutes before you add the eggs and you should feel it thickening and changing in consistency a little while you keep stirring. It's a bit like a sofrito in this sense, it develops its flavour the longer you cook it.
- Nudge two little wells into the tomato sauce, reduce the heat and add the eggs to either well. You don't want the whole egg to be in a small well but rather to be spread out a little over the surface of the sauce, so it can cook properly.
- Add the pieces of artichoke heart by just gently pushing them into the sauce, so they are still visible. Cover the pan with a (see-through) lid and let the eggs poach in the sauce on a low heat for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, get the almonds, feta and coriander ready. When the 5 minutes have passed, check to see that the egg whites have fully cooked and take the pan off the heat, as you don't want the egg yolks to overcook.
- Scatter the feta, coriander and flaked almonds generously over the shakshuka and serve with warm pitta bread.