Shakshuka: eggs poached in spicy capsicum & tomato sauce

This delicious North African breakfast dish is popping up on cafe menus everywhere. As well as giving you a fiery kick-start to the day, Shakshuka works well as a quick and cheerful lunch or dinner: it often makes an appearance for our family's lazy Sunday night dinners when we have fresh eggs from the farmers' market.

You can play around with the spices and veggies to suit your taste. The yellow capsicum isn't essential, but does look fabulously bright. If you can't find yellow capsicum, simply use two red ones instead.

Serve with grilled sourdough bread and a dollop of creamy Greek yoghurt on the side. 

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced 
1Tbsp harissa paste, or to taste
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red and 1 yellow capsicum, roughly diced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed 
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
800 g diced tomatoes — either canned or fresh
6–8 free range eggs
Handful of roughly chopped fresh coriander, to serve
Greek yoghurt and toasted sour dough bread, to serve

Directions:

  1. Choose a large nonstick frying pan that has a lid. Heat the olive oil in the frying pan over low–medium heat. Add the onion, harissa paste, garlic, capsicums, tomato paste, cumin and coriander seed and ½ teaspoon of fine sea salt. Cook, stirring from time-to-time, until the onions and capsicums are nice and soft — about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes. If you are using canned tomatoes, include all of their juices. Stir well and heat until just simmering. Turn the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes until the sauce is thick. Taste the sauce, adding extra salt if needed to taste, as well as freshly ground pepper. If the sauce is a bit 'sharp', add a pinch of sugar to mellow the flavours.
  3. Use the back of a large serving spoon to make six or eight hollows in the sauce for each egg to sit in. (How many eggs you want to use will depend on the size of your pan and how many people you are serving.) Gently crack an egg into each hollow.
  4. Put the lid on the frying pan and cook over low heat until the egg whites are just set and the yolks are still runny, about another 10 minutes or so. Keep in mind that the eggs will still keep cooking a little more in the residual heat. When cooked to your liking, season each egg with salt and freshly ground pepper and sprinkle the fresh coriander all over. 
  5. Serve straight from the pan at the table with the yoghurt and toasted bread on the side.

Tips:

It's always worth the small amount of extra money you spend on free range eggs, especially if you buy from a farmers' market or farm gate where you cadn shake the hand of the person who fed and cared for the chooks who laid the eggs!

True free range eggs provide strict guidelines for the care of poultry, including allowing chooks to forage on land and move around without being caged. And you also reap the benefits: free range eggs have brightly coloured yolks, a fantastic flavour and are naturally higher in nutrients because the chooks have had access to a varied, natural diet.

Recipe developed by award-winning cook and food writer Andrea Ball.