Beth Al-Rikabi a.k.a The Free Range Chef gives us her winning lazy weekend brunch idea…

As Felicity Cloake wrote in The Guardian last year, I’m not sure what we all did before Yotam Ottolenghi came along. Sprinkling pomegranate on everything, introducing us to intriguing sounding spice mixes and really ramping up the popularity of Middle Eastern food. The cuisine varies greatly from North Africa to Iran to Syria but this dish seems to encapsulate it all for the more western palate. This popular breakfast dish brings together all these jazzy flavours in a very tasty, simple and affordable dish, which is easy to improvise with depending on what’s in your cupboard.

Shakshuka, meaning to mix up or shake, can be eaten for any meal but has become popular as a brunchy affair served with chunks of sourdough. I made it for a bunch of hungry yogis last month on a yoga retreat in Wales and it went down a storm served with garlicky greens, balsamic roast potatoes and pickled red cabbage. The stars of the show were the electric yellow yolks of Matt and Lou’s eggs from New Macdonalds Farm whose happy chickens roam the hills just outside Bath.

If you are giving veganism a go then add a dollop of soya yoghurt and some wilted spinach before baking which is rather tasty too.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
1 red pepper, diced
½ aubergine, medium cubed
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin seeds
½-1 tsp cayenne pepper
800g tinned tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
4-8 eggs, depending on hunger
To Finish
I use fresh parsley but you can use coriander and even crumble some feta over for a salty finish.

Method
Heat the oil in a medium sized frying pan and cook off the onions until golden. Add the aubergine and peppers, cooking until soft then wang in the garlic and spices and combine to fill your kitchen with the most glorious of aromas.
Add in the tomatoes and sugar and bring to a slow boil, then turn the heat right down and reduce to create a rich, thick sauce, about 30 minutes. Taste and season before adding the eggs to make sure you have the spiciness levels right.
Make little dips in the sauce and neatly break in the eggs. Cover and cook on the lowest heat on the hob for 10 minutes, making sure the eggs are cooked but still retaining a generous wobble before serving.

For the Littler Ones…If you take out some of the spice in the tomatoes, chop the veg a little smaller or swap for your child’s favourite then I reckon this might be a fun dish to eat together. It will end up a bit messy but it’s created with dipping in mind so serve it up with some buttered soldiers and perhaps a sprinkling of cheese. Expect red sauce to be found in corners and crevices you didn’t even know existed!

Beth is a retreat and private chef and author, who brings travel inspired seasonal vegetables and mindful munch to markets, pop-ups and supper clubs in and around Bath.

For more information on her amazing supper clubs or any catering enquiries, contact her via her website www.thefreerangechef.com

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