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Baked shakshuka

There are many recipes for shakshuka, using a variety of spices, but I like this version from Sabrina Ghayour's Persiana cookbook, because one: it uses harissa, a spice paste from North Africa, which I relish, as it's got a subtle kick that slowly warms up the palate; and two: it's both cooked and baked, which I think gives a whole new level of sophistication for this quotidian breakfast staple.

Mixing both fresh tomatoes and canned tomato paste gives an added layer of umami to the dish, enhanced further by spices such as onions, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, harissa and cracked black pepper. If your pantry lacks one, two or more of these spices, fret not, just double the measurement from the ones you have, so you still get that nice peppery kick. As for herbs, use whatever you have in the chiller, and just chop them to use for sprinkling. I'm partial to dill; I just really like its sharp woodsy smell, and it can counter the heat from the spiced tomatoes. You can prepare this early, in time for Mother's Day; the serving is enough for a family. If you have a big household, just double the portions.

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4-6


5-6 eggs

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 large onion, chopped into thin slices

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons harissa paste

3 large tomatoes, roughly chopped

150 grams tomato paste

1/2 cup mix of flat-leaf parsley dill and other mixed greens, finely chopped

200 grams feta or cheddar cheese, cut into thick squares

Cracked black pepper

Ground Himalayan or rock salt

1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Evenly coat pan. Sauté onion slices and garlic slivers until they soften and onions become translucent. Add turmeric, cumin, paprika and cinnamon, stir well, then add harissa paste.

That's a lot of onions in there, so let them cook for about 10 minutes, until they become soft and "blond." Toss in the minced garlic halfway through, so it doesn't get burned.

After the onions and garlic have softened, add in turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, paprika and harissa. Coat all the spices together.

2. Add in fresh tomatoes and tomato paste. Season generously with salt (I count to 15 seconds while grating the salt shaker). Stir continuously, then reduce temperature to medium-low. Stew for 20 minutes, while stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking.

The spices and tomato juice should have all mixed together to produce a beautiful glowing sheen like this.

3. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Turn off heat from stovetop. Pour tomato mixture into a rectangular 2 quart baking dish (or oval, material can be glass or stone, as long as it can absorb high heat during baking), distribute it evenly. Scatter chopped greens into the mixture, but save some dill and parsley for the topping.

4. Add cheese cubes on top of the tomato mixture. Leave some room for the eggs.

5. Carefully crack each egg onto the mixture. Sprinkle cracked black pepper on top of the eggs. Bring the baking pan into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

One of the eggs slid off and bound itself to two on the left. So much for social distancing. Haha!

6. Remove pan from oven; using heat-proof mitts or a long tea towel, bring it to the dining table and serve with homemade focaccia.

Fresh from the oven

Happy Mother's Day!


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