Yesterday was the Vegan Cookoff – the theme was Middle Eastern and North African food. I just had to make shakshuka, a pepper and tomato stew that originated in Tunisia and is popular across the MENA region. It’s often served for breakfast with poached eggs swimming in the thick, sweet sauce, and what a great opportunity to discover some new vegan egg tactics while using some of my old favourites.
Before tomatoes, after peppers and spices
I based this shakshuka recipe after Yotam Ottolenghi‘s, with a few elements from other shakshuka recipes I found online – I subbed out Yotam’s cayenne for fresh jalapeno, and had (surprise!) run out of saffron so I did not use that. I also didn’t have fresh cilantro/coriander on hand so went with dried. Ottolenghi didn’t use garlic, and I chose not to use thyme. The balance in my shakshuka was perfect, but you wouldn’t lose using his recipe either.
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
200mL extra virgin olive oil – use the good stuff because you will really taste it
2 yellow onions, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into 1cm wide strips
1 yellow and 1 orange bell pepper, prepared as above
2 jalapenos, roughly chopped
2 tbsp organic raw sugar
2 bay leaves
1.5 tbsp dried coriander
Handful fresh parsley (be generous)
4 large or 6 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
In your largest, deepest cast iron frying pan (or use a saucepan if you don’t have a cast iron), dry toast the cumin seeds on high for about 2 min until they are brown in colour. Add the olive oil and turn the heat down to medium-high. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for about 2 – 3 minutes until they start to soften, then add the garlic and cook for another 3 – 5 minutes until the whole mixture is looking dewy. Add all of your peppers, sugar, and spices and cook for 10 – 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until the peppers soften and the whole thing is taking on a red-orange colour. Add tomatoes and cook for another 10 min, then taste. Add salt and pepper and adjust everything else for spice if you need to; remove the bay leaves at this point as well, if you can find them.
If you’re adding the eggs, ensure your stew is nicely broken down first – it should have a thick consistency, a nice level of sweetness and a gentle heat.
Vegan Poached Eggs
The recipe for the white is based off of one from Chel Rabbit which the author used in their shakshuka.
either 1/2 cup soaked raw cashews, pureed into a cream, or 1/4 cup vegenaise
1/4 lemon worth of zest
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp black salt aka kala namak (i get this at buy low in the indian spices section)
i also added 1/8 tsp asafoetida aka hing, another indian spice that i don’t expect anyone else to have – because i didn’t have onion powder
soft organic tofu – don’t use the vacuum packed kind!
Combine all ingredients except for tofu and blend til smooth.
1 tbsp vegenaise
1 tbsp carrot juice or v8 (this is just for colour)
4 tbsp vegetable broth
2 tbsp earth balance
2 tsp cornstarch
This recipe is designed to be “poached” in a stew. You could probably also use it in other contexts but you’d have to alter the preparation a little bit.
Make holes in your stew for your eggs – I made 5. Spoon in a tablespoonful of the creamy white mixture and smooth it into the hole. Scoop out a tablespoonful of soft tofu and place it on top. This is going to be the texture of the white, while the cream is the taste. Let your stew simmer with the white in it for 8-10 minutes so the flavours combine – don’t stir, of course, or you’ll wreck your eggs.
In the meantime, prepare your yolk. If you have a microwave, this is a bit easier, but I have done it on a stovetop before as well. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl or small skillet and melt – in a microwave, zap for 20 seconds and then whisk. On a stovetop, melt and then whisk. Now, the key is to warm it and whisk it until it is a creamy bechamel or egg yolk consistency, and then IMMEDIATELY remove it from heat because if it gets past that point it will separate. If it separates, it still tastes good but it looks gross. In the microwave, zap for 5 second increments, whisk, and then put it back in if you still need to. On the stovetop, warm gently while whisking until it’s perfect.
Scoop a teaspoonful of yolk into the centre of each white. Turn the heat off and serve. Shakshuka is usually served straight out of the cast iron – bring it to the table with some fresh toasted flatbread and a big serving spoon and let your dining companions feast on it in the messiest way possible!