I’m a big fan of brunch, as you well know. I sometimes rely a little too heavily on potatoes in some sort of fried manner (because fried potatoes are the only actual, scientifically proven cure for a hangover), so I like when I come across a brunch idea that’s not all root vegetables and regret. I first read about shakshuka not that long ago, and chalked it up as a potential brunchable. Turns out, it’s amazing.
Shakshuka is argued to have originated in Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen, but its popularity spread all across the Middle East, and it’s now a popular breakfast in Libya, Algeria and Morocco as well as a common evening meal in Israel. The traditional version of the dish is made with eggs, which are cracked into wells in the tomato mixture and slowly poached this way.
For me, avocados are the natural vegan equivalent to eggs. They’re fatty and delicious, and they can be cooked (or prepared) in a number of different ways. Shakshuka is also served with a yogurt drizzle in a lot of places, and I’ve used my favoured basic tahini sauce as the drizzle here, as the flavours go really well with the spices and tomato (and of course, with the avocado). The result is a dish that I’ll be coming back to time and time again; easy, quick and a total crowd-pleaser.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed/diced
1 large yellow pepper, sliced
2 tablespoons Harissa paste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 tins of diced or crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of ground cinnamon
2 large handfuls fresh spinach
freshly ground black pepper
1 ripe avocado, stone removed, cut in half
For the tahini sauce:
1 tablespoon tahini
The juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp agave / maple syrup
a little water
a pinch of paprika
Heat the oil in a frying pan and add in the onion and garlic over a medium heat
When the onions are turning translucent, add in the yellow pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes
Add in the Harissa paste and tomato paste, stir well, then add in the diced/crushed tomatoes
Add in the cumin and cinnamon, stir well, then bring the heat down to a simmer
Let the mixture cook for 10-15 minutes, until it’s just starting to reduce
While the mixture is cooking, place all the tahini sauce ingredients into a blender and blend until well combined. Add as much water as necessary to achieve a thick but pourable consistency then set aside
Add the spinach into the frying pan and season to taste. Cook for another minute or two
When the spinach is starting to soften, make two gaps in the mixture and put an avocado half in each one
Cook for 2 to 3 more minutes then drizzle the tahini sauce over the whole shebang
Top with a little sea salt and black pepper then remove from the heat. Transfer the pan to a heat-proof serving plate on your table and serve straight from the pan, with lots of crusty bread to mop up the sauce
This recipe will feed a very hungry two, or a four with a side and a bit more bread. Rubbish bread ruins absolutely everything, so make sure you’ve got a good, thick, crusty loaf from a local baker if you can. (Support local bakers, etc etc.) If you do still have the aforementioned hangover, you could even serve this dish with a side of potato hash and it would be just glorious. Wilted kale might be a healthier addition! If you stretch this dish to serve four instead of two, make sure everyone gets a quarter of avocado or add in another two avocado halves, otherwise there’ll be a fistfight.
As the days are getting a bit more grey and mornings are starting to necessitate socks, this is a lovely, warming dish that could really be enjoyed at any time of day, as it is in Israel. The Harissa is the key to the flavour in this dish, but the garlic and cumin are equally as important. Feel free to play around with additions such as mushrooms, beans or artichoke hearts; the latter are particularly favoured in Tunisia.