Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Breakfast from Jerusalem

In New York the other week, I had shakshouka for the first time, as part of a cold vegetable salad plate that also included za'alouk (eggplant salad) and some of the smoothest hmmus I've ever eaten, as well as these cumin-scented carrots that blew my mind. But eating the shakshouka, a melange of tomatoes, peppers, herbs and onions, reminded me that I'd seen another blogger post about it recently. Turns out it was Tara Austen Weaver of the gorgeous Tea and Cookies, and she got it from the Guardian's website, where famed chef Yottam Ottolenghi had cooked it on camera, from his latest cookbook Jerusalem. Her pile of peppers looked so inviting in its pan (I adore peppers more than I can tell you) and so, having loved my New York bite of shakshouka, I resolved to make some of my very own last weekend.

As you can see, it turned out just gorgeously, a thick saucy stew of peppers, onions, tomatoes (I totally used canned diced ones and it was very nice, but when the local tomatoes come in I'll try again with fresh) and coriander, with toasted cumin seeds and saffron and bay undertones. I poached an egg in a panful of the hot stew and ate it with some olive ciabatta, and it was a delightful weekend brunch for one. And as I discovered the next day, it is delicious left over, cold from the fridge, as well.

I don't have a copy of Jerusalem (though I will, at some point) but here's what I did, based on notes i took while watching Ottolenghi's video:

slice 4 bell peppers (2 red and 2 yellow) and a medium onion.  Dice up about 3 cups of tomatoes or use canned, but drain them of their juice (reserve some in case your stew is dry). Chop a half-cup of fresh coriander leaves and set all your chopped veggies aside for the moment.

In a large skillet, toast a teaspoon of cumin seeds over medium heat until they are fragrant and browned. Add about two tablespoons of oil to the pan and heat over high heat, then toss in the peppers, onions, coriander, two bay leaves and a little dried thyme and parsley, and a tablespoon of sugar. Cook ten minutes, until the peppers and onions start to brown.

Add tomatoes, cayenne or other chili pepper to taste, a pinch of saffron, salt and pepper to the pan, and bring to a boil, then simmer until reduced and thick. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. 

When done to your liking and still simmering, you can make shallow wells in the stew and crack eggs into them - then cover the pan to let the eggs poach until just set. Scoop out the eggs and some of the stew, and enjoy with good bread. This is a meal for any time of day, in my opinion (Chris thinks it's too strongly-flavoured for breakfast, but I respectfully must disagree).

Leftovers are good out of a bowl or on toast.

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