Algeria: Shakshouka

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On Friday I ventured to the north-west corner of Africa; to Algeria. Algerian cuisine is a distinct fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. It is this mix that has contributed to the unique culinary delights that are found throughout the country. It is an eclectic mix of flavours, smells, and textures. Common foods from Algeria include khabz, a flatbread served with every meal, mergeuz, a spicy lamb sausage, berber couscous, and shakshouka. I choose to make shakshouka.

Shakshouka is a dish of poached eggs in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, and onions.

Eggs and I have had a very hot and cold relationship. As a child, I really liked eggs. It was always great to get some scrambled eggs for breakfast. But then as I grew, so did my indifference towards eggs. I eventually came to the point where I no longer liked them. Then, last year, eggs and I had a fling. I went through a period of about a month where I really liked eggs again, especially scrambled with relish in them. But I think that I had a little too much and made myself not like them again. Shakshouka sounded like a fairly easy and quick dish to make though, so I thought “Hey, what the heck, If I don’t like it, Jamie will eat it up for me.”

Shakshouka turned out to be incredibly delicious. Tomatoes have always been a personal favourite of mine, and since they are a main part of this dish, it made me love it all the more. I love the versatility of this dish. You can choose whether you want to make it sweet or spicy. To make it sweet, you add more sugar, and to make it spicy, you add more cayenne pepper. Also, this dish is quite visually appealing. If you wanted to add more colour you could add green or yellow peppers instead of red ones.

I’m certainly saving the recipe for this dish. It’s a keeper. It is versatile as it can be served for any meal. We ate it for dinner, but it can be a breakfast or a lunch food. Here’s the recipe.

ImageShakshouka

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium brown or white onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium green or red bell pepper, chopped
4 cups ripe diced tomatoes, or 2 cans (14 oz. each) diced tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp chili powder (mild)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste– spicy!)
Pinch of sugar (optional, to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
5-6 eggs
1/2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley (optional, for garnish)

Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium. Slowly warm olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant.

Add the bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes over medium until softened.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste to pan, stir till blended. Add spices and sugar, stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till it starts to reduce. At this point, you can taste the mixture and spice it according to your preferences. Add salt and pepper to taste, more sugar for a sweeter sauce, or more cayenne pepper for a spicier shakshuka

Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce.

Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced. Keep an eye on the skillet to make sure that the sauce doesn’t reduce too much, which can lead to burning.

Garnish with the chopped parsley, if desired.

Recipe courtesy of: http://theshiksa.com/2010/07/28/summer-2010-travel-blog-shakshuka/

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So far, my jaunt around the world has been a successful one. I’m enjoying trying all of these new dishes and new ways of making food. It is also a great chance to learn more about other cultures. Next stop, Andorra. (In case you missed the last one, check out Albania here.

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