In "The Book of New Israeli Food" I stated that shakshuka is comprised of 3 mandatory ingredients: eggs, tomatoes and hot sauce. Well, it’s time I took that back – shakshuka has since evolved into so much more. These days, all that’s needed are eggs, a skillet and a bit of imagination.
Originally from Lybia, this humble dish was for many years confined to home kitchens, with rare appearances at roadside eateries, where it was sometimes, quite oddly, served in a pita. The home-to-restaurant change came about when "Doctor Shakshuka" opened its doors some 15 years ago. This quirky cavernous joint, strategically situated near Jaffa Flea Market, drew both locals and tourists. Bino, who still owns the place, specializes in the straightforward version of shakshuka – spicy tomato-based sauce finished with sunny side up eggs. But what most restaurants offer as shakshuka today is only loosely reminiscent of the original. Spinach, Swiss chard, coconut milk, seafood, and mushrooms are just some of the ingredients to have found their way into an egg-topped skillet. Chefs love shakshuka: it’s versatile, lets their creativity shine and most of the prep can be done in advance. Which is precisely why shakshuka is so much fun to make at home.
Here are a few basic rules you should follow to make the perfect shakshuka:
1. Use a heavy, relatively deep skillet. Make sure the lid has a valve to provide an outlet for the steam.
2. The shakshuka sauce base should be fully cooked and seasoned before you add the eggs. Once they are in the pan, you cannot stir the sauce and adjust the seasoning.
3. The idea is to have perfect unbroken yolks. To avoid accidents, break each one into a bowl then slide carefully onto the base.
4. For a prettier looking shakshuka, add only yolks to the skillet (with just a little bit of the egg white).
5. If you are making a large shakshuka, to be shared, make sure yolks are evenly distributed in the skillet.