Shakshouka

Shakshouka 1Last Friday our lovely friend Andy came over and we took the opportunity to introduce him to our favourite restaurant: No. 4 Peterville.  Now, Andy is a bit of a foody and he eats out A LOT in some very nice restaurants so we were thrilled that he loved No. 4 as much as we do but, you know, what’s not to like?

Not only did we eat our way through the menu but we also drank our way through the wine list.  The boys even finished up with some amazing cognac but I confess that I was done by that stage and settled for espresso.

Needless to say, after such indulgence, Andy was staying overnight at our house.  Anticipating some serious hangovers (“not me – I don’t get hangovers” she said smugly) I planned a revitalising breakfast – nothing like a bit of chilli heat to bring you back to life after an evening of excess – so I decided to make shakshouka.

However, as Andy was eating out again on Saturday night (and Sunday and Monday apparently) he decided to skip breakfast and head home to Plymouth.  We ate the shakshouka anyway and I just thought I would post this to show him what he missed – I am such a gracious host!

By now you may well be wondering what on earth it was that we ate.

If you decide to research shakshouka (or shakshuka) you will find that it is Tunisian or maybe Israeli or Moroccan or Egyptian in origin.  The more you read the more you will  realise that most North African countries have their own version of this dish.  What is more, everybody makes it in a slightly different way, which is brilliant because you can vary it according to your own desires and it will always be authentic somewhere – even if only in your kitchen.

This dish is tradionally served for breakfast and we love eating it for brunch at the weekend but it also makes a great lunch dish or, with the addition of some potatoes, a perfect dinner.

Some recipes (like this one) use peppers and some don’t, others add spicy sausage or chunks of cheese.  For me, the joy of a dish like this is the variability.  In our house it belongs to that category of recipes called a “bung in” because you can just “bung in” whatever is in the fridge; finally a use for 3 slightly wrinkled mushrooms and a lonely half courgette.

The eggs are a fairly fundamental part of shakshouka but if you are vegan (or you just don’t like them) leave them out.  Try adding tofu or beans instead.

One thing is sure though; it absolutely has to be eaten with lots of fresh, crusty bread to soak up the lovely sweet, hot, spicy juices.

ShakshoukaIngredients

(Serves 2)

1 large Onion (sliced)

2 cloves of Garlic (chopped)

1 red Pepper (sliced)

1 orange Pepper (sliced)

2 fresh Chillies (red or green to suit you)

1 tsp Ground Cumin

1 tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 tsp Ground Coriander

2 tbsp Olive Oil

1 x 400g tin Chopped Tomatoes

A generous handful of fresh Coriander (chopped)

4 large Eggs

Method

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add the sliced onions and cook gently until softened.  Add the garlic, cayenne pepper, cumin and ground coriander, stir well.  Add the sliced peppers and chopped chillies (seeds in or out depending on how hot you want it to be) and cook gently until softened.

Turn the heat up a little until the peppers and onions begin to colour a little (don’t overdo it).

Add the tinned tomatoes, season well with salt and pepper and stir.  Cook together for five minutes adding a little water if it gets a bit dry.

Make four wells in the mixture and break an egg into each one and cover with a lid or some tin foil.  Be careful here.  There is a bit of an art to getting the heat right.  You want the whites to set before the yolks are overcooked so start off with a gentle heat and adjust it as you see fit.

Once the eggs are cooked sprinkle over the chopped coriander and serve.

This dish is traditionally served straight from the pan at the table with bread, lots of bread and then maybe a little more bread.  Eat, enjoy, feel better.  Now get out there and enjoy your weekend.

 

Crumpets Crumpets Crumpets

Last week I posted a picture of an empty plate on the bunscuffle Facebook page and asked what you would most like to see on it. There were lots of wonderful suggestions including cream teas, Swiss rolls, toast and butter and raspberry friands (which I will get around to) not to mention £50 notes, Euros and Daley Thompson! But the suggestion that made me stop and think was crumpets.

We like crumpets at bun scuffle despite years of the kind of jokes you have to expect when your last name is Crump. We like them for breakfast, as a mid afternoon snack or just when we get in from work tired and hungry and dinner seems a long way away.

The little holes in the top of a crumpet are perfectly designed to hold onto melted butter so a little goes a long way. They taste great topped with jam or honey or Marmite or even a little ripe brie which begins to melt over the hot … I’m getting carried away now but the crumpet is a lovely  vehicle for the sweet or savoury topping of your choice.

I have to confess that I have always just bought crumpets in the past but today, especially for all you lovely people who take the time to read my blog, I have made them from scratch. Have a go – it takes longer than just popping them, ready made, into the toaster but it is well worth the effort.

Ingredients

450g / 1lb strong white flour

½ tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp / 1x7g sachet fast-action dried yeast

300ml / ½ pint milk

300ml / ½ pint water

vegetable oil

4 crumpet rings or 3in plain (not fluted) pastry cutters

Method

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.

Mix the milk and water and heat to blood temperature (when you dip your [clean] finger in it should feel neither hot nor cold). Stir the sugar and yeast into the milk / water mix and leave for a minute or two.

Pour the warm milk / water into the flour and beat well to give quite a thick, smooth batter. Cover with a tea towel or cling film.

Leave in a warm place to rise for about an hour until it has a light, spongy texture.

Very lightly oil a non-stick frying pan (use kitchen towel to remove any excess oil) and place over a very low heat. Grease the crumpet rings and place them in the pan then leave to heat up for a minute or two.

Pour in enough mixture to fill the rings about half to two thirds of the way up. Leave to cook until plenty of small holes appear on the surface and the batter has just dried out. This will take about 8-10 minutes.

Remove the rings and turn over the crumpets to cook for a further minute or two on the other side. Sit the first batch of crumpets on a wire rack while continuing to cook the remaining mixture.

These crumpets are best eaten at once but can be kept warm or re-heated in the oven without too many problems.