Archive for December, 2012

Tunisian brunch shakshuka

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

A typical North African food, also popular in Israel, is baked eggs shakshuka. I first became aware of this dish at Made in Camden, one of my favourite brunch spots in London, and find it very restorative after a long night out (and the ensuing hangover).

Knowing that we would want a hearty and restorative brunch for Boxing Day (a.k.a. Stephens’s Day) this year after a fair bit of wine at Christmas dinner at my friend Claire’s, I planned ahead to make a big pan of shakshuka for me and Rory.

Shakshuka is basically a tomato-based dish, flavoured with spices like cumin and paprika, in which eggs are poached, and the whole thing is used for dipping bread.

I have found out that Tunisian shakshuka uses harissa and preserved lemon, whereas the version I made is closer to the Israeli version. I plan to follow up this post in the next month with my attempt at a more accurate Tunisian shakshuka. I adapted the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. The main thing to be careful of (especially if cooking while hungover) is to not touch anything, especially your eyes, after handling the jalapeño — wash your hands and surfaces before moving on to the rest of the recipe.

Shakshuka closeup

Baked eggs shakshuka (for 2-3 people)

4 Tbsp (60ml) olive oil

1 Jalapeño (if you don’t like reasonably spicy food, leave it out)

1/2 small yellow onion, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, crushed and chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 14-oz/400 g can chopped tomatoes

3 eggs

1/4 cup feta cheese (a big handful), crumbled by hand

Warm pitas for serving

Start by chopping the jalapeño finely and make sure to wash your hands with soap afterwards.

Fry the jalapeño and onion in oil in a 12-inch skillet (preferably cast iron) for about eight minutes. Add garlic, cumin and paprika and fry for another two minutes while stirring.

Heat oven to warm pitas.

Add tomatoes and 1/4 cup (60 ml or 4 Tbsp) water and simmer on medium for 15 minutes, adding salt to taste.

Put pitas in oven.

Crack eggs into dish, mixing whites in with simmering sauce. Cover with lid for 5 minutes, then add feta.

Serve family-style, with the skillet on a trivet in the middle of the table and everyone dipping their pita bread into it.

Shakshuka served

Detour: easy party food

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Happy holidays to you!

In honour of the season, here is a slight detour from my usual focus on typical cultural foods: some ideas for easy party dishes to make for a group. This is simple and delicious party food with minimal effort. You might find this useful for your new year’s celebrations.

The original version of this first recipe for spinach dip shockingly uses pumpernickel. I’ve been eating this every holiday season with sourdough for decades now and would be so disappointed to eat it with any other bread type. Every Christmas Eve it’s a hunt for sourdough in all the local stores, and so far, every year I’ve found it.

This dish is excellent for vegetarians and also a great way to sneak a bit of spinach into a carnivore’s diet.

Spinach dip

Spinach dip in sourdough bread

1 packet Knorr’s vegetable soup powder (any kind without pasta)

2 cups sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

1 loaf sourdough bread (preferably round)

1 bag fresh spinach (if you have access to a packet of frozen chopped spinach, just defrost, squeeze out the moisture and don’t bother chopping any further)

Wilt the spinach in a pan with a lid, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat when it is done, pour off the liquid and allow to cool.

Mix the soup powder with sour cream and mayonnaise.

Once the spinach has cooled, chop, squeeze out moisture and add to the rest. Refrigerate until shortly before serving.

Hollow out the bread loaf – the easiest way to do this is by slicing off the top and hollowing out with one’s hands, though I tend to cut down at an angle and pull out the gem-shaped wedge before hollowing the rest with my hands. Keep the bits you pull out on the side for dipping and slice up the top of the bread for dipping too. The secret is once you’ve run out of dipping pieces of bread, you can dismantle the bread bowl for more dipping.

The second recipe is so incredibly easy and tasty. It’s also seasonal because shellfish are in season all winter.

Make sure you have as many strips of bacon as you do scallops – or if you’re short on bacon, you can cut the bacon strips in half and use half strips instead.

The scallops can keep the roe (orange bit) on if it is still there; I think it adds flavour and a nice variation in texture.

Scallops prebaked


Bacon-wrapped scallops

Streaky American-style bacon

Fresh scallops (defrost in advance if frozen)

1 lemon Cocktail sticks (toothpicks)

Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C.

Lay down a slice of bacon, place a scallop on its side on the bacon, and roll along the side until the bacon ends, then stick a cocktail stick into it through the bacon and place in a baking dish. Do this with all the scallops.

Juice the lemon and pour 1 teaspoon lemon juice per scallop over the scallops.

Bake for 20 minutes and enjoy!

Baked scallops

Dublin pubs auf Deutsch

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

A random post for you: my German teacher recently went to Dublin to catch a rugby match, so I put together a list of pubs for her to check out. And, it being my German teacher, I wrote my reviews auf Deutsch.

Pubs are a typical part of Irish culture, so I thought I’d post it up here. They’re public houses, and predate Starbucks as the original “third space”, separate from home and work. It’s somewhere you can buy a drink and hang out for hours. They might look at you a bit askance if you did that with a laptop though — pubs are a social space.

Here is a list of some pubs I like from when I lived in Dublin, six close to Lansdowne Road, and six in the city centre. Many you wouldn’t stumble across unless you knew they were there.

If you read German, you’ll get my more precise opinion of them too — just click on the blue dots.

(You get extra points if you go to The Church on the north side — that’s where my fiancé and I had our first date).

View Dublin pubs in a larger map