“At the summer’s end, I’m always left with big, green tomatoes in my garden that haven’t fully ripened. One time, I thought to make shakshuka – otherwise known as ‘eggs in purgatory’ – with them. They lent the dish a vibrant, lemony flavour that I just adored. Of course, one can’t find green tomatoes year-round. So I thought, why not use tart tomatillos instead? They ended up tasting even better than the green tomatoes, and I’ve never gone back.” – Rawia Bishara
150ml olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
4 shallots, thinly sliced
7 cloves garlic, diced
2 poblano chillies, thinly sliced
2 long hot chillies (or 1 small green pepper for milder taste), thinly sliced
7 small Arabic squash (a type of bulbous, green-striped summer squash) or 2 large courgettes, cut into 1.25cm-thick slices
6 large or 10 small tomatillos, husks removed (or 4 large green tomatoes), washed and cut into 1.25cm-thick slices
2 medium yellow tomatoes, cut in 1.25cm-thick slices, or 320g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon Hot Pepper Paste (see recipe below)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 large eggs
Grated halloumi cheese, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
In a large, nonstick ovenproof frying pan, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over a medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for about 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Add the garlic, poblanos, long hot chillies and squash and cook until just tender, about 8 minutes.
Remove to a plate.
Add 2 tablespoons more of the oil to the pan and add half of the tomatillos. Do not stir. Cook
until the tomatillos just begin to colour on one side, about 3 minutes, then flip them. When the second side begins to colour, about 3 minutes more, remove the tomatillos to a plate. Repeat with the remaining tomatillos, adding more oil to the pan if it looks dry.
Leave the second batch of tomatillos in the pan. Top with the reserved squash mixture, followed by the reserved tomatillos and the yellow tomatoes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato puree, hot pepper paste, lemon juice, cumin, salt and
black pepper and spread the mixture evenly over the vegetables. Cover the pan and cook over a low heat for 5–8 minutes, until all the ingredients have softened. If the mixture starts looking dry, add up to 120ml water.
Uncover the pan and evenly drizzle the remaining 4 tablespoons oil over the vegetables. Using a spoon, make shallow indentations in the mixture, and carefully crack the eggs over the top. Place the frying pan (uncovered) in the oven and bake until the whites are set and the yellows are cooked to your liking, 5–8 minutes for runny or 10–12 minutes for firm.
Sprinkle the top with grated cheese, if using. Switch on the grill and place under the heat until just melted. Bring to the table and serve immediately, straight from the pan.
HOT PEPPER PASTE
You can easily buy hot pepper paste from the supermarket, but it’s just as easy to make it yourself. That way, you can control the quality (by eschewing preservatives), flavour (selecting smoky peppers, for instance, or avoiding salt), and even the heat (by using milder chillies or removing the seeds and ribs).
This recipe makes about 480ml.
170g dried red chillies (I use Aleppo chillies, but any variety will do)
2 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed
Simmer the chillies in a pan of water until fully rehydrated and tender, 10–15 minutes. Transfer the chillies to an ice water bath, drain into a colander and run cold water over them or let them sit until cool enough to handle.
Wearing disposable gloves (very important!), cut the stem ends off the chillies. Slice them lengthways, and use your fingers or a paring knife to scrape away the ribs and seeds (unless you want your paste to be really spicy). Chop the chillies, then put them in a food processor, add the oil and process to a thick paste. The paste will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for at least 1 month.
Taken from Levant by Rawia Bishara. Published by Kyle Books. Photography by Con Poulos