My time living in the Middle East had its share of ups and downs, but one of the joys was constantly learning about new foods. For a while, I was in the privileged position of reviewing restaurants in Dubai, which was a lot of fun, even after the time I was almost fired for writing a negative review about a restaurant in a hotel where the general manager was a mate of my boss. But even when I quit that job to focus on writing about cars, I was still fortunate enough to live near some amazing restaurants, from the cheap and cheerful to the five-star.
Shashuka is one of those dishes that I didn’t eat every day when I lived in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but it was a familiar sight at hotel breakfast buffets and on cafe menus. It never really occurred to me to try and make my own shashuka until a few days ago. I received an email from the BBC Good Food Middle East magazine – I can’t bear to remove myself from that mailing list and cut that particular tie with my old life. I clicked on something about Ramadan food, just in time for the Islamic holy month to start, and ended up exploring the website. I came across a recipe for shashuka and the ingredients, especially cumin and coriander, made me a bit nostalgic.
But, like many a Middle Eastern recipe, this particular shashuka was better suited to a family with a couple of kids. At the Munching Matilda South London Test Kitchen, it’s just me and my husband. So I thought I’d make a few tweaks and adjustments to the recipe to create a breakfast shashuka for two. This would require four eggs and, as luck would have it, I had four eggs left in the fridge. The rest of the shashuka centred around ingredients I happened to have in the house and I accompanied it with Turkish flatbread that I made on Friday afternoon in anticipation of doing a traditional Middle Eastern cooked breakfast for a lazy Saturday morning.
If you want to cook this for four people, double all the ingredients.
The Turkish flatbread recipe came straight from a bread-making cookbook that a neighbour was giving away for free during one of the lockdowns. I never freestyle when I make bread, so I strongly advise you look elsewhere for a Turkish bread recipe or simply buy some for the purposes of soaking up shashuka.
The shared ritual of dipping bits of bread into the eggs with runny yolks and adding lashing of vegetables straight from the frying pan is one of the true delights of a shashuka. As a bonus, it is as healthy as it is tasty.