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Poached eggs in spicy tomato sauce

This Tunisian dish originated in turkey where it is named Meme. It came to north Africa during the ottoman period. It has become very popular throughout the Middle East. The eggs softly cooked in a hot skillet of spiced tomato sauce can be served for breakfast, brunch, or breakfast-for-dinner. You can finish shakshuka in a number of ways, including individual baking dishes, so everyone gets their own portion, or in a large skillet, so folks can eat communally. Keep an eye on the shakshuka as its cooking and use the times indicated as guidelines; various factors can affect cooking times and it’s hard to say precisely how long they will cook. When served, the eggs should be still runny so that the yolks mingle with the spicy sauce.


  •  2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

  • ½ – 1 chili pepper stemmed, deseeded, and finely diced/minced

  • 1½ teaspoons salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon paprika, smoked or sweet

  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed, or 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

  • ½ teaspoon turmeric

  • 2 pounds (1kg) ripe tomatoes, cored and diced, or 1½  cans ( 28-ounce) of tomatoes

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 2 teaspoons honey

  • 1 teaspoon red wine or cider vinegar

  • 1 cup loosely packed greens coarsely chopped (radish greens, watercress, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, arugala) 

  • 4 ounces (about 1 cup) feta cheese, cut into 6 bite-sized cubes

  • 4 to 6 eggs


  1. In a wide skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until soft and wilted. Add the chili pepper, the salt, pepper, and spices. Cook for a minute, stirring constantly, to release their fragrance.

  2. Add the fresh or canned tomatoes, tomato paste, honey, and vinegar, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened somewhat but is still loose enough so that when you shake the pan it sloshes around. (Fresh tomatoes may take a little longer to cook than canned.) Stir in the chopped greens.

  3. Taste and add salt or pepper as needed 

Finish in Skillet: 

  1. To finish on the stovetop, turn off the heat and press the cubes of feta into the tomato sauce. With the back of a spoon, make 6 indentations in the sauce. Crack an egg into each indentation. Turn the heat back on so the sauce is at a gentle simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes, taking some of the tomato sauce and basting the egg whites from time-to-time. Cover, and cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes, until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

Finish individual dishes in the oven:

  1. To finish in individuall caseroles preheat the oven to 375ºF (180ºC.)

  2. Divide the sauce into 6 small baking dishes and press the feta cubes into the sauce. 

  3. Set the baking dishes on a baking sheet, make an indentation in each, and crack and egg into the center. Bake until the eggs are cooked to your liking, basting the whites with some of the sauce midway during baking, which will take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes – but begin checking them sooner to get them just right. 

Serve with harcha (see recipe) pita bread or lots of crusty bread for scraping up the sauce.

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