I like to start my sunday mornings on a wintery day by stewing up something hot and yummy, to enjoy at a very leisurely hour. Something spicy, something soft, something sumptuous. I have adapted a traditional Israeli dish called Shakshuka – a spicy pepper and tomato stew which they drop eggs into as they poach into the flavorful surroundings and sprinkle with feta. With the addition of fennel, eggplant and some unconventional herbs, paired with some toast twigs to dip into your gooey yolk, this adaptation has become my favorite Shakshuka morning!
An ancient aphrodisiac, used in love potions since the middle ages, fennel bulb has a very subtle yet distinct flavor. Supporting these old traditions, it is now found to contain high doses of estrogen, the female sex hormone. I decided to throw the aubergine in with it, as it is like a tender sponge to the lending flavors it sits with, and won’t overpower the fennel. To spice it up, I used sage leaves, dill and cumin ( both cousins of fennel and in the same Aphro-category), paprika, cayenne and cinnamon – all of which have their own warming properties. Along with the soft poached eggs surrounded in the tomatified stew, and a soft chévre goat cheese, we have an almost completely Aphro-breakfast!
YOU WILL NEED (for two):
(CLICK THE LINKED INGREDIENTS FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THEIR APHRODISIACAL PROPERTIES…)
- 4 free range eggs
- 1 small bulb of Fennel – sliced into thinnish rainbows
- 1/2 a small eggplant – chopped into 1-2 inch long sticks only about a cm in thickness
- 1/2 an onion – sliced into thin rainbows
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced in discs
- about 6 leaves of sage, chopped
- a small handful of fresh dill (for fresh garnish)
- a good crumbling of Chévre goats cheese, or goat fetta
- 1 large tomato, finely diced
- Canned tomatoes, OR tomato paste mixed with water
- 1 tsp brown sugar, pomegranate molasses, or sweetener of your choice
- A pinch of cinnamon
- A pinch of Cayenne
- 1/2 tbsp Paprika
- 1 tsp cumin seeds (Note: these spice measurements are approximate, add as you please and taste along the way)
- Toast of your choice (I used gluten free to avoid the lethargic feeling I can get from too much gluten, but a nice turkish loaf would go beautifully with this!) cut into long strips for dipping.
- Olive oil for frying
Start this calming sunday morning process off with the usual – very slowly browning your onions and garlic in a large pan with good amount of olive oil – if you think you have enough, you probably need more. Once the kitchen is fragrantly full of their aromas, and they are translucent, throw in the fennel and aubergine, sage and turn the flame up to medium. When I make stews like this one, I like to slice everything into long thin shapes as its a little bit more seductive than cubes, especially when you have to slurp them up with the possibility of getting the saucy mix all over your cheeks…
As they are frying off (should be about 6 minutes in total), throw in your spices to get them aromatic. Afterwards add your fresh tomato and tomato sauce, salt and pepper, and if you wish, add a little tiny splash of something sweet – you can do a teaspoon of brown sugar, but i decided to drop a tiny splash of pomegranate molasses in there. Add about half a cup of water, bring the flame back down to low, and simmer for about 10 minutes, adding more water if it gets a little too dry. When it is ready, the thick stew should separate and stay separated when you make your little holes for the eggs – just smush around a wooden spoon, to make a resting place for one egg – crack it straight in there, then move on to the next hole, fairly swiftly so that the eggs are all somewhat evenly cooked.
Crumble the cheese on top, then cover with a lid and cook for about 4 – 5 minutes or until the yolks are how you want them…
Serve with the fresh dill sprinkled on top, and the toast twigs freshly buttered… dip in and lavish out.