Simple, savoury and endlessly satisfying, shakshuka is the one-pan meal that’s become a national favourite – so here are five recipes to shake up your DIY brunches (or any lockdown meal).
We don’t know about you, but when lockdown eases and the doors open once again at our favourite brunch spots, there’s one dish that’ll be top of our order: shakshuka. Thanks largely to the influence of Yotam Ottolenghi, who spread the gospel of shakshuka in his 2010 cookbook Plenty, the Middle Eastern and North African dish has become something of a brunch obsession in the UK – and frankly, we now can’t imagine life without it.
A vegetarian dish that combines gently poached eggs and a warmly spiced tomato sauce with peppers, onion and garlic, shakshuka is claimed as their own by many different cultures. Although North African in origin, some food historians believe it dates back to the Ottoman Empire, where saksuka, a meat and vegetable stew, was a favourite in the Arab-speaking world. Today, shakshuka is a staple breakfast dish in Israel, where it was introduced by Jewish immigrants from Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Libya, who eliminated the meat to make the dish pareve.
Just like pilaf and biryani, over time, the dish migrated across the world, where different cultures added their own unique flourishes. Today, there are hundreds of variations to enjoy, from Turkish menemen and Mexican huevos rancheros, to the Italians’ brilliantly named uova in purgatorio (‘eggs in purgatory’).
Not only is shakshuka fun to say and delicious to eat, it’s a doddle to make, too. The word derives from Arabic, meaning “a haphazard mixture” or “all mixed up”, which is a pretty apt description of the one-pan marvel. Loaded with herbs and layered with flavour, it’s a bold, all-purpose dish that will please everyone; plus, it’s fit for any meal of the day.
Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time cooking shakshuka, it’s a great dish to have in your back pocket for days when you simply don’t know what to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you’re thinking: that’s most days, you’re in luck, because we have five recipes to share below.
Looking for something nutritious to kickstart your morning? Nadiya Hussain’s smoky spinach shakshuka is a iron-rich dish that packs a real flavour punch. For a classic, comforting recipe, Bettina Campolucci Bordi’s baked shakshuka with butter beans topped with avocado has a spicy, smoky edge – and if you like a bit more complexity, Alan Rosenthal’s shakshuka with preserved lemons and feta is an intriguing mix of sweet and savoury flavours.
For an authentic Middle Eastern dish, Reem Kassis’ onion and chilli shakshuka with za’atar features the delightful addition of fried potatoes. And if you fancy dialling up the heat, Anas Atassi’s jazmaz is a Syrian rendition of shakshuka with extra chilli. Serve with crusty bread, fresh herbs and a handful of crumbled feta, and you’re good to go.
Bettina Campolucci Bordi’s baked shakshuka with butter beans topped with avocado
Bettina says: “Love this dish! So simple, satisfying and easy to make. The eggy version of shakshuka has taken over cafes worldwide. This version is still as substantial and has a spicy, smokey edge to it that I love.”
- 80ml olive oil
- ½ red onion, chopped
- ½ red pepper, chopped
- ½ aubergine, chopped
- 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
- 230g tinned butter beans, drained
- 4 sundried tomatoes, chopped
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- pink Himalayan salt and pepper, to taste
- handful of chopped parsley
- sliced avocado (for creaminess and a bit of freshness)
- drizzle of pesto
- shop-bought plant yogurt
In a medium pan, heat the oil and fry the onion, pepper and aubergine with a tiny pinch of salt for 10–15 minutes. It is important you use a good amount of oil here to get it going and to make sure that the veggies soften properly.
Then add the tomatoes, beans, sundried tomatoes and all the spices and seasoning, give it a good stir and leave on medium heat, covered, for 10 minutes.
Check on the mixture when the time is up, give it a stir and leave for another 10 minutes.
By now the shakshuka should be done, the liquid should have mostly cooked off and turned sticky and there should be a smokey gorgeous mixture in your pan.
Serve immediately from the pan with a good sprinkle of chopped parsley, avocado slices, homemade bread for dipping and if you have some pumpkin seeds pesto, get that in too, along with some plant yogurt and lemon wedges to squeeze over.
This is such a comforting dish that can also be made in bigger quantities and reheated. It’s a weekend brunch kind of meal, but also super when you’re coming home from work and are in need of something substantial.
From Happy Food: Fast, Fresh, Simple, Vegan by Bettina Campolucci Bordi (£20, Hardie Grant), out now
Alan Rosenthal’s shakshuka with preserved lemons and feta
Alan says: “Shakshuka is a phenomenal one-pot dish that’s as good for supper as it is for brunch! Don’t be alarmed at the amount of extra virgin olive oil; the oil brings a fruity richness that’s offset by the salty acidity in the preserved lemons.
“It goes without saying that tomatoes are the star of the show here so do buy the best canned variety you can and use fresh during the summer when they’re at their finest. If you’re not keen on green peppers, feel free to use only red. I enjoy the savouriness that these bring to the dish, balancing the sweet vegetables.”
- 125ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2 onions, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 green pepper, thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
- 1 tsp caraway seeds, lightly crushed
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
- ½ tsp mild Turkish red pepper flakes (isot pul biber) or crushed chilli flakes
- 50g preserved lemons, finely chopped (skin and pith only, flesh discarded)
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
- ½ tbsp paprika
- 4 eggs
- 100g feta
- 2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander or parsley
- ¼ tsp sumac
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in your wide shallow pot over a medium heat.
Once hot, add the onions and peppers with a pinch of salt. Stir and pop the lid on. Cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, giving it the occasional stir.
Remove the lid and continue to cook for 5 minutes to drive off some of the moisture that will have collected in the pot.
You may need to raise the temperature slightly to maintain the heat, now the lid has been removed.
Add the garlic, caraway and cumin seeds, isot pul biber (or chilli flakes) and preserved lemon. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the tomato purée (paste). Allow the mixture to cook for another 3 minutes or so.
Add the tomatoes and half a tomato can’s worth of boiling water. Stir through the paprika and season. Cook for 15–20 minutes over a medium heat, stirring from time to time.
Once you can see the oils begin to settle on the surface of the mixture, have a taste and add more salt if you think it needs it. (The feta will also add a salty note to the dish, so be mindful of this.)
Using a wooden spoon, make four wells in the sauce and crack in the eggs. Season each egg and pop the lid back on.
Cook for 5–7 more minutes or until the egg whites have set.
Once the eggs are cooked, crumble over the feta followed by the chopped coriander or parsley and the sumac. Serve.
From Foolproof One Pot: 60 Simple and Satisfying Recipes by Alan Rosenthal (£12.99, Quadrille), out now
Reem Kassis’ potato, onion and chilli shakshuka with za’atar
Reem says: “I’m not sure shakshuka is the most accurate name for this dish, but I figured it would convey the idea best. After all, the word shakshuka, which refers to the North African dish of eggs poached in tomatoes, is literally derived from an Arabic word meaning ‘to pair or mix together’.
“Here we are mixing two classic breakfast foods: eggs and potatoes. This combo is a staple breakfast across the Arab world. Some people scramble the eggs with potato cubes, others make it a frittata and add more vegetables, but here I leave the eggs whole and allow them to fry with the potatoes and other aromatics for a dish that’s crispy on the edges, but soft and comforting in the middle. While it’s wonderful on its own, if you’re like me (or like most Arabs!), you never pass up a chance to eat carbs with carbs, and so we scoop this whole thing up with bread.”
- 3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 550–600g baking or red potatoes (about 3 medium), cut into 2cm cubes
- 1 small red or green bell pepper, cut into 2cm pieces
- 2 fresh red or green chilli peppers, such as jalapeño, thinly sliced (omit if you don’t like spice)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- a few twists of black pepper
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp za’atar blend
- fresh za’atar or oregano leaves, for garnish
In a large lidded nonstick or cast-iron pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and cook, tossing frequently, until just starting to brown around the edges, 10–15 minutes.
Add the bell pepper, chilies, and onion and continue to cook, tossing periodically, until the potatoes are golden brown and crisp all over, another 15 minutes.
Add the salt, cumin, and black pepper and give everything one more toss. Make 4 wells in the potato mixture with the back of a large spoon and crack an egg into each well.
Drizzle some olive oil on top of the eggs and sprinkle with the za’atar. Cover the pan and cook until the whites are set. If you prefer a runnier yolk, you can spoon the whites gently away from the yolk so you have thinner whites that will cook faster.
Remove from the heat, garnish with fresh za’atar leaves, and serve immediately.
From The Arabesque Table: Contemporary Recipes from the Arab World by Reem Kassis (£24.95, Phaidon), out now
Nadiya Hussain’s smoky spinach shakshuka
Nadiya says: “Sometimes I crave something really green to start the day, and this recipe is a great way to get loads of iron-rich spinach into the system first thing in the morning. It beats a bright green juice or smoothie concoction – I’d need the intentions of an angel to drink one of those.
“I will instead stick to my spinach shakshuka, which is cooked in a rich tomato sauce and finished with runny eggs on top. It’s delicious served with yoghurt and toast.”
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 4 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 200g baby spinach leaves
- 4 medium eggs
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- Greek yoghurt
- toasted sourdough
Place a large non-stick frying pan (preferably one with a lid) on a high heat. Add the oil, and as soon as it is warm, add the garlic. Turn the heat down and add the spring onions.
Add the salt, tomato purée and chopped tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes have softened, adding 2 tablespoons of water if they start catching on the bottom of the pan.
Add the cumin seeds and smoked paprika and cook the spices through for a few minutes.
Add the spinach, a handful at a time, and mix as best as you can – I know spinach can go rogue! Put the lid on the pan and allow the spinach to wilt. This will only take a few minutes.
Take off the lid and cook for another few minutes on a medium heat until all the moisture has dried up.
Make 4 cavities in which to place the eggs. Crack an egg into each cavity, then put the lid on top and leave on the heat until the whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny. This will take roughly 4 minutes. Take off the lid and sprinkle over the chilli flakes.
Spoon an egg and some of that smoky spinach on to each plate, and serve with yoghurt and crisp toasted sourdough.
From Nadiya’s Family Favourites: Easy, Beautiful And Showstopping Recipes For Every Day by Nadiya Hussain (£22, Michael Joseph), out now
Anas Atassi’s jazmaz (eggs in tomato sauce with chillies)
Anas says: “Jazmaz, as it is known in Syria, is also popular in Levantine cuisine, where it goes by the name shakshoka. It is a simple dish that could be served at any time of the day – breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. Every family makes it a little bit differently.
“The differences are small, but important: a little bit of extra chilli pepper, eggs that range from softly cooked to completely hard-boiled. I like my jazmaz spicy and eat it the traditional way, with flatbread or, in a modern twist, with baguette.”
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 2 garlic cloves (pressed)
- 1 hot chilli (cut in half lengthwise)
- 3 medium tomatoes (diced), juices retained
- 1 tsp paprika
- salt and pepper
- 4 eggs
- 1 handful of flat-leaf parsley (coarsely chopped)
- 1 handful of black olives (pitted and sliced)
Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan set on medium heat and sauté the onion in the hot oil for 5 minutes, or until it starts to brown.
Add the garlic and sauté it with the onion for another couple of minutes, stirring so that the garlic doesn’t burn.
Stir in the chilli, diced tomatoes (along with the juice) and paprika. Salt and pepper to taste.
Turn the heat to low and simmer the sauce for 5 minutes, or until it thickens and reduces a bit.
With a spoon, make four little wells in the sauce and crack an egg into each so that the sauce surrounds each one. Cover and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, plus an extra 2 minutes if the yolks need to cook thoroughly.
Serve in the frying pan, garnished with chopped parsley and olive slices. Salt and pepper to taste. This is delicious eaten with warm bread.
From Sumac: Recipes and Stories from Syria by Anas Atassi (£25, Murdoch Books), out now
Photography: Nassima Rothacker; Rita Platts; Dan Perez; Chris Terry; Jeroen van der Spek
Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.