shakshuka with poached salmon
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Rich and chunky tomato, pepper and onion spiced with cumin, bay and saffron – that’s shakshuka. Instead of customary eggs, there are pieces of fresh salmon coddled in the fragrant sauce.
Shakshuka is an immensely popular Israeli dish that functions as all day breakfast, has eggs poached in thick and spicy pepper, onion and tomato sauce and is all cooked and served in one pan. ‘Shakshuka’ means roughly: ‘all shook up’ - which it is, peppers and other veg shaken and stirred, until eggs land in the mix and then it all calms down.
It’s a great sharing dish: place it in the middle of the table, hand out heels of crusty bread and everyone can dip and dunk, spoon and slurp the mix of egg yolk running into tomato base. No wonder it has gained popularity in the west, so much so that most people think ‘shakshuka’ means ‘eggs’.
And it doesn’t.
And, defiantly, I say it doesn’t have to.
Since it’s a ‘shook up’ dish, what you add to the sauce or poach in it is down to your fancy and inspiration. It is permissible to include cheese, herbs or meats so boldly I set out to make my own version of shakshuka: with fresh salmon.
Poaching fish is an age-old method of cooking but the poaching medium is usually water, broth or milk. But that’s boring and invariably makes the fish taste BOILED. I know a better way: sometimes I cook my fish fillet atop stewing vegetables – when the veg are practically cooked you can place the fillet onto them, cover the pan with a lid and the fish will poach-steam beautifully, not losing any moisture and gaining the flavour from the aromatics underneath.
Which is exactly what happens here. The tomatoes, peppers and onions make a bed for the salmon chunks to beautifully poach, simply swapping eggs for fish in a classic shakshuka.
The sauce is awesome – no surprise since I based it on Ottolenghi’s recipe for his shakshuka (with eggs). The cumin, garlic and saffron together make a wonderful spice symphony riding the waves of the tomato-pepper sea (oh heck – where has THAT come from???). It is truly wonderful and even if you think my idea of plonking fish into shakshuka is bonkers, and you will steadfastly crack your eggs into the sauce, that’s fine. But if you give it a go, you might be surprised.
shakshuka with poached salmonServings: 2Time: 45 minutes
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed in pestle and mortar
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, cored and chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tsp dark brown sugar
- 6-8 (about 250g/8 oz.) ripe tomatoes, diced
- ½ tsp saffron strands
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
- 2 tbsp. parsley, chopped
- ½ bunch fresh coriander, chopped
- up to 250ml (1 cup) of water
- salt and black pepper
- 300g (10 oz.) salmon fillet, skinless and cut into thick chunks or slices
- lemon slices, for garnish
- Greek yoghurt, to serve
1. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the cumin and toast until fragrant. Add the oil followed by onions and cook them over high heat, stirring.
2. Add the garlic, peppers, bay leaf and sprinkle over the sugar. Continue cooking over high heat for 5-10 minutes until the onions and peppers get some colour.
3. Add the tomatoes, saffron and cayenne pepper, stir in the thyme, parsley and most of the coriander and turn the heat down. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring and adding water to keep the consistency saucy, until the tomato sauce bubbles and thickens. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
4. Add a splash more water to the pan and arrange the salmon on top of the sauce; press it down lightly. Cover the pan with a lid (or a large baking tray, turn the heat down to low and cook for about 10-12 minutes until the salmon turns opaque enough to your liking (I like mine slightly translucent in the middle).
5. Take the pan off the heat, garnish with lemon slices and the remaining coriander, and serve immediately with crusty bread, plain rice or couscous.