Chakchouka with Mediterranean Influences

EpicureanPiranha | April 2nd, 2011 - 17:23

Chakchouka ~ a Healthy Colourful Dish

The cuisine of Tunisia is very colourful, bursting with flavour, and unlike the cuisines of some of its North African neighbours, is unusually hot and spicy!  It is a cuisine based on fresh vegetables, fish, meat (primarily lamb and chicken), pasta (particularly couscous), and grains.

Chakchouka Spicy Couscous & hot Italian sausage

Colourful and delicious! Chakchouka served with a spicy couscous and hot Italian sausages makes a lovely brunch dish!

Popular throughout northern Africa, Israel, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean

Sunday was gorgeous and sunny, and it prompted me to prepare a brunch inspired by these colourful cuisines! I decided to make chakchouka (or shakshouka), a sort of vegetable stew popular throughout northern Africa, Israel, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, where it’s known as ratatouille (although the latter also contains aubergine and courgette). Similar to its Mediterranean cousin, Tunisian chakchouka is typically made from tomatoes and bell peppers, slowly simmered with lots of garlic and spices ~ such as cumin and coriander ~ until rich and thick.

Mom's sweet peppers & tomatoes

Freshly picked sweet peppers and vine ripened tomatoes from my mother’s garden.

The dish I made was closest to Tunisian chakchouka, the main difference being in the spices I used.  It was a highly seasoned mixture of slowly simmered tomatoes, onions, and lots of garlic, to which I added peeled, char-grilled bell peppers. A true Tunisian chakchouka would include cumin, coriander, and probably the spice mixture known as tabil, a seasoning composed of “garlic, cayenne pepper, caraway seeds and coriander pounded in a mortar, then dried in the sun” [source:]. Tunisians often make their own blend of tabil, and some mixtures will literally contain dozens of spices!

Harissa ~ a Fragrant Hot Chili Paste for Extra Punch!

Jean-Talon Market - chili peppers

A variety of hot chilli peppers hanging in the sun in Montreal’s colourful Jean-Talon Market.

I love spicy food, so I also added a little harissa to my chakchouka, a fragrant paste made from cooked hot chili peppers, garlic, olive oil and salt, extensively used in Tunisian cuisine. If you prefer, you can serve the harissa as a condiment at the table and let your guests help themselves, or simply omit it altogether.

Tunisians poach eggs in their chakchouka. I have some lovely mini cocottes, and thought these would make for a perfect presentation. So once the savoury tomato-pepper mixture had reduced to a rich, thick consistency, I spooned some into each cocotte, and made an indentation into which I placed a fresh egg. I then baked these for a few minutes in the oven until the eggs were set but the yolks still runny. If you don’t have any small ramkins or cocottes, just use a 22 cm square pyrex dish or equivalent.

What To Drink

To serve, I slowly cooked some hot Italian sausages until they were caramelised, then split and served them on a bed of spicy couscous to sop up the delicious saucy concoction. A fresh green salad added a nice contrast in taste and textures. Fresh crusty bread and cold beer from one of our many excellent Quebec microbreweries was all that was needed to round off this perfect brunch!  We went for the excellent Canon, brewed by Brasseurs rj in Montreal. Brewed from a blend of four different malts and hops, it has a pale golden caramel colour, and a wonderful flavour that also maries perfectly with dark chocolate cake!

I must add a small side note here: I never really enjoyed beer until my sweetheart made me discover some of the wonderful beers produced by our many microbreweries. The Canon, a strong beer with 7.6% alcohol per volume which I sampled for the first time on Sunday, is now one of my favourites! If you’d rather drink wine with this dish, a nicely chilled pinot gris rosé makes an ideal partner, or you could drink a lightly chilled Beaujolais or a crisp, dry white.

This recipe will serve 4 to 6.

Chakchouka with Mediterranean Influences

Metric Ingredient Prep.
60 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1 Large onion Chopped.
6 Garlic cloves Chopped.
1 kg Ripe, vine-ripened tomatoes Peeled, seeded and chopped.*
2 Bay leaves
2 Sweet peppers  1 red and 1 orange or yellow.
1 Small bunch flat-leaf parsley  Chopped.
2.5 ml Imported harissa
7.5 ml Sea salt
5 ml Freshly ground black pepper
4 – 6 Large fresh eggs
Fleur de sel Optional
  • Add the EVOO to a large frying pan or heavy-bottomed saucepan, and cook the chopped onion until soft over med-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the chopped garlic and bay leaves and cook a few more minutes, being careful the garlic does not brown.
  • While the onion mixture is cooking, turn on the oven grill. Slice the peppers lengthwise into 6 strips each, and place skin side up on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil. Place under the oven grill and broil for 6 to 10 minutes, until the skins are black and bistered. Remove from the oven and cover with a sheet of cling film for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • While the peppers are grilling, blanch the tomatoes for 1 minute, remove the skin, then seed and chop. Add the chopped tomatoes to the onion mixture, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring ocasionally, for 20 – 30 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken.
  • Remove the blackend skins from the peppers and cut them into smaller strips. Once the tomatoe onion mixture has begun to thicken, add the pepper strips to it. Add the harissa, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Continue cooking  10 – 15 mintes, until the texture is rich and thick. NOTE: You can prepare the chakchouka up to this point and refrigerate until you are ready to prepare your meal, so this is a great dish for entertaining!

Final Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 200C.
  • If the mixture is cold, warm it gently until bubbling. Stir in the chopped parsley, taste, and adjust seasoning. Spoon it into a shallow oven-proof dish, or into individual ramkins or mini cocottes.
  • Make good-sized indentations in the mixture, and break an egg into each one. Sprinkle the eggs with a little fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until eggs are set but yolks are still runny. Serve immediately with crusty bread and a simple green salad tossed with a dressing of EVOO and a little balsamic vinegar, sea salt and pepper.

Notes ♥

* If you can’t find ripe, flavourful, vine-ripened tomatoes, then use a 786 ml tin (28 oz can) of quality chopped tomatoes. Drain a little before using.

4 Responses to “Chakchouka with Mediterranean Influences”

  1. Rochelle says:

    Shakshuka is my absolute favourite dish when I go out for breakfast (or lunch) in Israel!! I have tried making it at home and added sweet chilli sauce. Delicious.

    • Hi Rochelle! I’m so happy to see you have registered on my webzine and that you’ve found a recipe you really love! I have to say that this is such a wonderful, tasty dish! There’s warm sunshine in every bite LOL

      Have a delicious day, dear Rochelle, and hugs to Michael

      ~ marie xxx

  2. SolangeLancup says:


    C’est ça que je veux, la prochaine fois !!!
    Ahhhhhhhhh…chakchouka, pour embellir les jours de pluie…


You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

To leave a message, please Login or Register if you have not done so already. ~ Pour laisser un message, vous devez vous connecter ou, si vous ne l\'avez pas déjà  fait, merci de vous enregistrer.

You must be logged in to post a comment.