In our land there are as many couscous as villages, as many tagines as vegetable gardens and, as many desserts as orchards and as many recipes, jealously guarded, as families.
Mourad ‘Momo’ Mazouz
‘Momo’ Mazouz writes this in the introduction to his The Momo Cookbook which I found here on the shelves at the riad. After I had gained the confidence of Jamila, the cook and manager of our riad, after cooking her this chakchouka (above), she described several recipes in the book, saying how she’d do the dishes differently! Jamila is a woman of strong convictions.
For this edition of Weekend Eggs, I was going to attempt a poached egg dish with a spicy tomato sauce that was a modified version of a street food dish we tried, but then I realized that this was my chance here to cook eggs in a fairly unique way by doing a chakchouka. Chakchouka is a spicy Tunisian baked egg and tomato dish found right across North Africa, and while not native to Morocco, versions of it can be found here. And when I say versions, it appears everyone has a different ingredient list. This is my take on this classic…
For this dish we bought all our ingredients along the atmospheric market street of Rue Bab Doukkala just around the corner from the riad. This is where the locals do their food shopping, picking up a bit of this here and a bit of that there. This ain’t one-stop shopping! We got everything we needed within 500 metres from about four shops. Great fun! Although we may have paid a ‘tourist tax’ at one grocery store, it was all cheap. This is my version, one of hundreds out there!
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion sliced finely
- 3 cloves garlic sliced finely
- 2 medium-sized capsicums ‘roughly’ julienned
- 1 red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
- 4 large tomatoes roughly chopped into small squares
- 4 lovely, large free-range eggs
- 2 tablespoons of harissa (North African spicy sauce)
- Salt as necessary
- Teaspoon of cumin
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- Sauté the onions in olive oil for a few minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, capsicum, chili and cook out for 10 minutes. The capsicum should be getting soft by this stage.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, cumin, a pinch of salt and the harissa – those concerned about the ‘heat’ level of harissa, just add one tablespoon.
- Simmer for another 10 minutes. By this stage everyone should be salivating. If they’re not, you’ve done something wrong or are cooking for the wrong crowd. You can add some more oil or even water if things get a little too dry.
- Make four evenly spaced indentations in the sauce – this is where the eggs will cook. Break the eggs individually into cups and slide the eggs into the indentations in the sauce. The reason for breaking them into the cups becomes obvious after you’ve made one where you’ve ended up with eggshell or a broken yolk in your dish!
- Cover and cook over medium-high heat until the eggs are just set – anything from 5 to 7 minutes.
- The eggs should now be easy to get out of the pan with a large serving spoon as the egg white will have cooked around the egg. The eggs should be runny and the yolk should mix with the sauce for best effect. Those who like their egg yolks hard are really missing out!
- Have some good crusty bread on hand to mop up the sauce – it’s delicious.
Those with a keen eye will note that there are pieces of Merguez sausage in the dish. While it went fine with the dish, Jamila recommends having minced spicy sausage through it instead. Of course she’s right. And who am I to argue?