Shakshuka: Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce
Yes, the egg is so rich in nutrition, it’s bound to get its superfood cape soon! Eggs are an extremely healthy whole foods addition to our eating plan—even a predominantly plant based one like mine. But, leave yesterday's egg white omelettes in the past and update your database. Eggs—along with their yolks—have been exonerated. They are not the cholesterol raising foods they were once thought to be. The yolk is loaded with body loving nutrients, such as antioxidants, B vitamins, including the important B12 that 100% vegan dieters need to supplement, vitamin A, iron, selenium, biotin, and choline—a trace mineral that is very important for the nervous system and brain function and one which many American children are deficient in. Eggs are also one of the most perfect proteins available—an abundant 6 grams per egg that includes all of the essential amino acids.
But, for your own personal health, as well as the health and well being of millions of hens and their baby chicks (they get ground up in factory farms), please try to only consume organic pasture raised eggs, rather than from antibiotic, hormone, and GMO fed chickens. This makes the consumption of eggs a more humane practice since most breeds will lay an egg daily—and whether or not they’ve ever seen a rooster, as roosters are necessary only for the fertilization of eggs. This knowledge changed my mind years ago as I had stayed away from eggs (which have always been one of my favorite foods) because of the factory farm treatment of chickens and their offspring, the poor nutritional profile and taste of factory farmed eggs, as well as the fear that I was eating a potential baby chick. (More education persuaded me to eggs again, but I completely respect the beliefs of vegans who abstain from all animal derived products.)
Okay . . . onto the Shakshuka! Shakshuka is a North African poached egg dish, but also very popular in Israel. I've had poached eggs in tomato sauce, but my Israeli friends made this version for brunch when I visited them last fall in Zurich and I loved the spices of cumin. I didn't get their recipe, but I when I got home I whipped up these eggs based on the flavors I tasted. I must say the Za'atar from Israel they gave me really enhances this dish, so do try to find it if you can! Enjoy!
Serves 3 - 6 (all ingredients preferably organic, especially the eggs)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 pinch of dried chili flakes or 1/4 tsp chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp paprika (I used Spanish sweet pimenton, but Hungarian paprika is fine)
- 10 medium sized ripe tomatoes (or about 500 grams of jarred)
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tbsp Muscovado sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs of dried thyme
- 4 tbsp fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped (plus more for garnishing)
- handful of spinach, chopped (you can use kale too, but I prefer spinach’s lighter texture in this recipe)
- 6 organic eggs
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas (optional, I used organic jarred chickpeas)
- few pinches of of Za’atar (optional)
- In a large pan over medium heat, dry roast the cumin seeds for about two minutes until they are fragrant. Do not let them burn.
- Add the olive oil and sauté the onions for two minutes.
- Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
- Add the chili flakes or finely chopped fresh chili, turmeric, and paprika, continuing to blend the ingredients together.
- Add the red pepper and tomatoes and allow the ingredients to simmer.
- Add the tomato purée, Muscovado sugar, bay leaf, and sprigs of thyme.
- Add the chopped fresh cilantro or parsley.
- Season with sea salt and a little freshly ground black pepper and allow to simmer.
- Add the fresh spinach.
- Add a spoon of water if necessary and continue to simmer on low until the flavors have melded, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Adjust seasoning as desire.
- Add the chickpeas if using.
- Carefully break the eggs into the tomato mixture.
- Season the eggs with sea salt as desired.
- Cover the pan and cook on very low until the eggs are set and cooked to your desire, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Sprinkle with a few pinches of Za’atar and more fresh herbs.
- Traditionally Shakshuka is served with a crusty bread. Enjoy it with your favorite or eat it on its own.