Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eggs in Purgatory - Shakshouka

Warning - the following excerpt contains sensitive material.
Not for the faint of heart.
Nor for fans of free range chickens.

She shivered again, and wrapped her beige coat tightly around her. The air was heavy and stale. The chill cut through her, even her tough exterior could not provide her respite from the bitter cold.
She was tired. She had been up for days. Wondering. Waiting. When?

"It will come soon, little one".
The deep voice stirred her from her mangled thoughts.
It was Him. The Wise One.

He shifted slightly in his perch. All the way in the back he sat, in his corner. He was afforded the best view of her and all the others. The empty spaces of the ones who had left. The sallow faces of the ones who remained. The ones who sat by dejectedly. Awaiting their Fate.

She shifted to peer at him once again. Now that most of her fellow inmates had left, snatched by the Evil Guard and whisked away to their end, she could see him clearly now. He was damaged. He had the grace of a wizened warrior, and he bore his battle scars with an almost arrogant flair.
Amongst hushed whispers from the others, she had learnt that he had fallen once, whilst in the grasp of an Evil One, and the fall had somehow saved him from his Fate. They had tossed him back and left him to slowly bleed to death.

"Do not resist. It will break you and earn you a worse fate. They will throw you in the dungeon to rot. Accept it. And Breathe."
He spoke like a sage. His words heavy like the chill around her. She struggled to breathe again, the dank, musty air enveloping her like a shroud.

The sudden noise startled all of them. It was swift. The Light came, piercing at first and she squinted hard, rubbing her sore eyes. There was a gush of sweet air and it caught her by surprise as the Evil Guards grabbed her. She gasped and swallowed the air in, drinking it in madly and furiously as she flailed her arms around in a new found freedom. She was caught in a warm wave and magically placed on a cold surface. She quickly surveyed her new surroundings, her eyes failing to adjust to the light and brightness around her, but finally resting on a giant steel contraption with circular bands that lay next to her. Drops of perspiration had accumulated all over her, but strangely, she felt free.
She had arrived. At last.

Excerpt from "..And Then There Were A Dozen..; Cautionary Tales from Within the Styrofoam Carton and Behind The Refrigerator Door". All rights reserved. Copyrighted material. (c) Split Pearsonality.

Everyone and their yenta knows how to make a mean shakshouka, a spicy tomato and pepper sauce dotted with perfectly poached eggs. Except I don't have a yenta.

So when the Walima Middle Eastern Cooking club profiled this dish from Tunisia, I was all for trying it out. The lore is that the Tunisian Jews introduced this dish to Israel when they migrated there, and now it seems to have attained cult status as the breakfast dish to be had. It is an awesome brunch dish and fairly easy to put together.

Make a piping hot sauce with onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and paprika, then slowly add eggs into the hot mix and allow them to poach. This lovely stew-like dish is best eaten with some crusty French bread or pita bread.

I've seen Mediterranean versions of this dish labeled as Eggs in Purgatory, which for the longest time had me imagining rows of rows of eggs chanting "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned..." - but for now, you may have figured, is the premise for my "fiction" above.

.....And please do not let my terrible pictures dissuade you from trying this dish! My poached egg looks like it got into a battle before it made it out. But the dish was delicious!

Shakshouka - (from Walima Middle Eastern Cooking Club - Celebrating Tunisia - Arlette @ Phoenician Gourmet)
This dish, with many variations, is a popular breakfast in North Africa, especially in Algeria and Tunisia. Most recipes include the eggs, but they can actually be left out if you like.

Olive oil -- 3 tablespoons
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 2 tsp
Paprika -- 1 to 2 tablespoons
Onion, thinly sliced -- 1
Garlic, minced -- 2 to 3 cloves
Potato - 1, diced
Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced -- 3
Green and red bell peppers, diced -- 2 to 3
Water -- 1 cup
Eggs (optional) -- 4

1. Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the cumin seeds, let them sizzle and then add the coriander powder and paprika and cook slighly to color the oil, about 10 to 15 seconds.
2. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent and wilted but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add in potatoes and fry.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to reduce down a little bit. Add the peppers, water and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add more water as needed to keep it from drying out.
4. Using a spoon, form four small indentations in the simmering peppers to hold the eggs. One by one, crack the eggs into a small bowl and slip each from the bowl into an indentation. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until eggs are cooked through.
5. Serve with crusty bread, pita or rice.

  • For a little spice, sauté 1 tablespoon of Harissa paste or a minced Chile pepper with the onions.
  • Sometimes fresh shrimp or a spicy lamb sausage called merguez is added to the simmering peppers along with the eggs.
  • Add 1 small, diced eggplant along with the peppers.
  • Sprinkle the top of the cooked dish with chopped parsley or cilantro.
  • Add a few olives and capers and eliminate the eggs.
  • Chill and serve garnished with hard-boiled eggs or tuna.
This dish is heading over to Padmajha at Seduce Your Tastebuds for the A.W.E.D African Event. The A.W.E.D Culinary Journey event was originally created by DK of Chef In You.

And this is also trotting off to Aquadaze at Served with Love for the food fiction event "Of Chalks and Chopsticks".


tasteofbeirut said...

Nice shakshouka! You are making me hungry!

WizzyTheStick said...

Everyone and their yenta knows how to make a mean shakshouka. I don't have a yenta and thus never heard of this. It sounds like a lovely addition to my growing collection of must try recipes

Kajal@aapplemint said...

Oh i love this version, My brother in law taught me to make these eggs, called them Israeli eggs em for breakfast. Shall make this for him, am sure will love it.

Arlette said...

Hello my friend..

you are making me hungry with your egg recipe... I can smell it all the way here...
thanks for participating in the challenge

Ann said...

Thanks all!