shakshuka

shakshuka - for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Shakshuka – for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Breakfast is a great meal. Roll out of bed, spend the first few minutes of each day yawning, stretching, and then you can get to thinking about cheerful items like freshly-brewed coffee, fruit, cereal and the all-important question of what breakfast spread you’ll have. Is it a Nutella morning? Will there be peanut butter in my life today? And surely every day is a Vegemite day…

(Between you and me, sometimes toast is the only reason I get out of bed.)

Weekend breakfasts are especially joyful, because eggs get involved. I’m a huge fan of including eggs in breakfast, and while the full English is a force to be reckoned with, I think the Israelis have it down pat. Imagine kickstarting the day with spiced tomatoes and peppers, eggs with runny yolks and custardy whites, creamy hummus and sharp olives and crusty bread. Yes.

shakshuka
Versatile. Simple. Nutritious. What’s not to love?

 

Shakshuka is thought to have originated in Tunisia, and is popular throughout the Middle East and in Israel, where it is commonly eaten for breakfast. In its simplest form, the dish is made by poaching eggs in a sauce made from tomatoes, onions and peppers. Other versions include harissa, cumin, salty cheeses like feta, or a spicy sausage like merguez.

It’s a perfect breakfast dish, but also works well at lunch and dinner. The meal scales really well and it’s incredibly easy to prepare. And as if you needed another reason to love shakshuka, the dish is low in fat, high in vitamin C and lycopene, and is said to be an excellent hangover cure.

Plus, there’s something immensely, greedily satisfying about plunging your pitta into the heart of the pan, and watching the golden-yellow yolk mingle with the fiery sauce. Oh, you so want to make this.

These delicious Queen Green olives are the perfect accompaniment.
These delicious Queen Green olives are the perfect accompaniment.

Shakshuka (serves 2)
For the tomato sauce
1 onion, finely sliced
2 red or yellow capsicums, sliced
2 x 400g cans tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp chilli flakes
Pinch sumac

To serve
2 eggs
Parsley
Feta (optional)

The sauce can be made well in advance. Fry the onion in a little olive oil, adding salt to stop it from burning. After a minute, add the peppers and fry for three minutes.

Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and simmer over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then simmer for another 10 minutes.

To make the shakshuka on a stovetop, put the (warm) sauce into a frypan and make two wells for the eggs. Crack the eggs into the wells and simmer for 5-7 minutes, depending on how runny you like your eggs.

To make the shakshuka in an oven, put the (warm) sauce into an ovenproof dish like a shallow pie dish, and make two wells for the eggs. Crack the eggs into the wells and bake in a 180C oven for 10-15 minutes, checking it at 7 minutes.

Top with parsley and cheese, and serve with pitta bread, olives and hummus or tahini.

spiced lamb sausage rolls

Lamb sausage rolls.
Lamb sausage rolls.

Oh Australia. Did you think I’d forgotten you?

One of the stranger quirks about being an expat is that you begin to hold national holidays even dearer to your heart than you would if you were actually living in the country. Where once you might have rolled your eyes at the prolific display of Southern Cross memorabilia and smirked at the plethora of green-and-gold boxing kangaroos, you instead find yourself looking at akubras with a certain fondness and tearfully googling the Australian flag.

It’s weird, yes. But it’s true.

Make these whenever you feel homesick.
Make these whenever you feel homesick.

I have trouble defining Australian cuisine, but there are generally a few things that come to mind: ANZAC biscuits, lamingtons, meat pies and sausage rolls. These stalwarts are often coloured by the irresistible compulsion to incorporate flavours from other cuisines – something fittingly characteristic of a nation inhabited by so many different cultures. And so we have chilli meat pies, barbecued curry prawns, pandan lamingtons and nutella pavlovas. I love it. If we are going to mend global fences, reach out to each other and live well together, I think it starts with food.

So in the spirit of Australia Day, I thought I’d make something quintessentially Aussie with a little twist. A while ago I found this wildly successful adana kebab recipe and to my delight it makes an excellent sausage roll, too. Lightly spicy, exotic yet familiar, these sausage rolls are my homage to the country I still call home.

Happy Australia Day, folks!

The familiar meets the exotic.
The familiar meets the exotic.

Spiced lamb sausage rolls
500g lamb mince
7.5g salt (about 2 tsp)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp sumac
1 tbsp Urfa pepper flakes
2 eggs
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 roll (375g) puff pastry

Place the mince in a large, sturdy bowl and add the salt, cumin, sumac and pepper flakes. Mix, using your hands to knead, until the mince goes tacky and starts sticking to the side of the bowl.

Add 1 egg and the breadcrumbs, then combine well. The final mixture should be springy and slightly sticky but not wet.

Chill the mince for at least an hour.

Take out the mince and divide it into 8 portions, then shape them into logs.

Wrap the logs in the puff pastry, overlapping the fold slightly. Score three times with a sharp knife, brush with beaten egg and bake in a 200C oven for 25-30 minutes.

not tabouleh

THIS IS NOT TABOULEH.

I’ve got to say that before all my Lebanese friends come after me, pelting me with falafels (which I maybe wouldn’t mind as much as I should). Real tabouleh is made with parsley, bulgur wheat, lemon juice, spring onion and mint. Calling this tabouleh would be like saying sushi is Chinese because it’s made with rice. Big no-no.

But as potentially culturally offensive as this little salad is, the ingredients were what I had in the fridge when I came home at about 8pm after a day of hardcore shopping and I certainly was not about to traipse out to get anything else. I very nearly reached for the pasta and sauce, but I didn’t, and I’m glad. This dish tastes wonderful – zingy and fresh and healthy – so I’m going to post it here for you to enjoy under the proviso that you all understand that calling it tabouleh would be a mistake, a misrepresentation, an egregious error.

The Not-Tabouleh Salad
Bunch of parsley, chopped
Two tomatoes, finely chopped
Quarter of a red onion, very finely chopped
3 tbsp of couscous
Juice of one lime
Olive oil

Parsley is wonderfully springy and robust, but the key is to get it as dry as humanly possible before chopping it, otherwise it ends up in a soggy mess. You can just use paper towels to pat the leaves after you’ve washed it. I know people who use a salad spinner to get it really dry before chopping it, which is great but a little Mission Impossible for the small kitchen.

When chopping parsley, grab the stalks and chop from the leaves down. Get it right the first time because the ‘running the knife through again’ technique that I often use to make things are properly chopped doesn’t really fly with parsley – you can end up bruising the leaves and they get soggy. In any case, don’t fret if there are one or two leaves sticking out at the end. Make sure you’ve chopped enough that the parsley salad is really about the parsley, not the couscous.

Combine the parsley, couscous, tomato and onion (I’m not wild about raw onion, so I only used a quarter, but use your judgement). I don’t like lashings of olive oil dripping everywhere so I used just the tiniest drizzle and then squeezed the lime juice over. Mix well and serve by itself, or with romaine lettuce leaves.

I may have also helped myself to the world’s largest scoop of hummus. Why not?