Go into any cafe in Israel for breakfast and there will be two givens- a two egg special with bread and spreads and shakshuka. Me, I always go for the breads and spreads mostly because I love bread but also because I could never fathom what was so great about eggs in tomato sauce.  The concept was always a big turn off for me. And so, though I have lived in the Middle East for more than 10 years I have never, not once, ever tasted or made shakshuka. GASP! Well, all I have to say is, the things you do for love. The hubby asked for some shakshuka for brunch and I obliged. Of course, for all things Middle Eastern I turned to the master, the one and only Yotam Ottolenghi and his fabulous book, Jerusalem.  As I was making the sauce I had to of course taste for seasoning so I dunked my spoon in and tasted. Wowzers. That sauce was goooood. Spicy, rich, peppery and so full of flavor thanks to the Harissa that Ottolenghi suggests that I found myself standing over the pot and devouring the sauce. Once the eggs were in I thought it wouldn't appeal to me anymore but I just couldn't resist the sauce and so I set out the pot with a hunk of a fresh baguette and we dug in. The egg really isn't the star here and so covered with the spicy sauce and slathered on some fresh bread it was an extraordinary brunch meal. Enjoy!

(adapted from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem)

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large red pepper, cut into medium sized chunks
1 large green pepper, cut into medium sized chunks
1- 2 Tablespoons Harissa ( a spicy Morrocan condiment readily available in Israel near the Chummus section- substitute a finely diced red chili pepper instead if you cannot find it)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 800 gram can (28 oz) of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided
pinch of sugar
4 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan or cast iron skillet. Add the peppers, harissa, garlic, tomato paste and cumin and season with salt and pepper. Saute for 6-7 minutes until the peppers soften and then add the crushed tomatoes , 1/4 cup of cilantro and a pinch of sugar. Let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes, it should thicken slightly and taste for seasoning.  With a spoon make for indentations in the sauce and carefully break each egg into each indentation. Swirl the white of the egg a little into the sauce making sure you don't break the yolk and cook for another 5 minutes until the whites are set. Sprinkle with the rest of the cilantro and serve.


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