One morning as my 12 year old self sat in the cafeteria eating a granola bar with my best friend Hannya (who still is my best friend), I was oddly suspicious about the ingredients in the granola bar I was eating. The wrapper said "chocolate chip" but my taste buds told me otherwise. I asked Hannya to take my wrapper and to look at the ingredients while I try to guess what was in it. She rolled her eyes at me and laughed, as she still does with all my wonderful ideas. As I sat there slowly chewing every little morsel "Aha! It's coconut hmmmmm and cinnamon?". Now this story may seem silly but it demonstrates my fascination with flavour even at the meager age of 12. To bring it back to this recipe, when I had first tasted shakshuka I wasn't blown away by any means nor did I hate it. I simply thought, this is something I can play with. It made me think of a few things: my mothers baith oo tamata (eggs and tomatoes), the heavy use of roasted red peppers in many of the dishes I tasted in Turkey, freshly made zataar my aunt brought back from Lebanon and lastly sumac (my favourite tangy spice) that was heavily sprinkled over grilled lamb and meats in Iran. Now this didn't come to me all at once, every time I would make it, I would think to myself "hmmm wouldn't this or that taste nic with it as well!" and so the experimenting went on for quite some time until I developed a variation of my liking. This recipe is extremely versatile and resilient to failure, so go ahead to let your palate guide you.
Shakshuka with Feta, Sumac, Zataar and Roasted Red Pepper
1 shallot, chopped finely
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium vine tomatoes (any kind really), roughly chopped
1-2 tbsp roasted red pepper paste (the Turkish brand is best - any Mediterranean grocery store should carry it)
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
crumbled feta (add as much as you'd like)
1/2 - 1 tsp sumac and zataar (up to how much you prefer)
fresh cilantro or dill to garnish
1. Sautee shallots in a small pan with olive oil until just slightly brown and toasted. Add chopped tomatoes and cook over medium-low and stir every so often until soft but not overcooked (dry).
2. Add red pepper paste and mix well so it is integrated with the tomatoes. Add paprika, salt and pepper and mix again.
3. Make 2-3 "wells" and crack an egg in each well. sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper and then reduce the heat to low and cover. Let cook for a few minutes until the whites are opaque and set. You can gently shake the pan to see if the yolks move, meaning they are runny, otherwise cook longer for a solid yolk.
4. Remove the pan off the heat immediately once cooked and finish off by sprinkling sumac, zataar, crumbled feta and dill/cilantro. Enjoy with toasted bread while still hot!