Chachouka (Baked Eggs in a Pepper and Tomato Stew)

It was my turn to cook dinner earlier this week and I really couldn’t be bothered. I desperately wanted to curl up with Nathan Fillion as Rick Castle and a cup of tea. And with the weather outside so bitterly cold and boring – snow, then rain, then more snow, then sludgy snow – I wanted something which felt like a nice warm hug.

I wanted to watch Castle on my laptop as I cooked something super lazy but still delicious. And I’ve found it! You just need normal storecupboard ingredients so as long as you’ve gone shopping, this is the perfect dinner.

Chachouka is a North African stew of baked eggs with peppers and tomatoes, lightly spiced but full of flavour. I just love it.

My latest celebrity chef obsession is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and to that end we’ve got a signed copy of his latest book to accompany the series Three Good Things, and this amazing gem of a book, River Cottage Veg Every Day. It’s an amazing collection of soups, mains, starters, lunchtime ideas etc etc, which are easy to make, cheap to buy for, and most importantly, nutritious and delicious! We’ve already bookmarked about 80% of the recipes (colour-coded, of course).

We had it with some toasted ciabatta and a bottle of crisp white Sauvignon Blanc. The flavours matched perfectly, the portions were just right and it made me feel warm and snuggly inside, which is just what you want out of a good weekday dinner!

Let me know what you think!

Serves 2 for a hearty dinner or 4 for a light lunch

Extra virgin  olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 large onion, halved and finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 peppers of your choice, deseeded and sliced. I used yellow and orange peppers for a nice colour palette

2 tsp of hot smoked paprika

2 tsp sumac

A pinch of saffron strands (try getting Spanish saffron, we picked ours up while on holiday two years ago and it’s still going strong!)

400g tin plum tomatoes, chopped

4 eggs

sea salt and freshly ground pepper (I used lemon pepper and Himalayan rock salt)

pinch of sugar

Bring a large, ovenproof dish to a medium heat, then add the oil and gently saute the onions until soft and translucent. Add the salt and pepper here. Preheat the oven to 180C.

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I had Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book to hand so I could compare how our dishes looked! (This book holder has come in so handy!)

Then add the garlic, cumin seeds and peppers and cook for about 10  minutes, until the peppers have softened.

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Add the paprika, sumac and saffron, then add the can of tomatoes along with the sugar. Let this mixture reduce for some time, then taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

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Cook for 5-10 minutes.

Using the back of a wooden spoon or ladle, carefully make 4 hollows in the pan, making sure they don’t go all the way to the bottom. This is what the egg will bake in.

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I found it easiest to crack the eggs individually into a terracotta ramekin and then pour carefully into the hollow. Be careful after you pour in the first egg, not to disturb it as you make the other hollows. The aim is for the yolk to be fantastically runny so you can dip your bread into it.

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Carefully add the eggs, season quickly with some salt and pepper and bake for a few minutes, or until the egg whites are set and the yolk runny to your taste.

Toast your bread now.

When the eggs have cooked to your liking, remove from the oven along with the bread and place the pan in the middle of your table and enjoy!

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