1 kg tomatoes (fresh is best, but tinned will work well for the winter months)
1 pepper (a roasted one from making muhammara if you are making the whole feast, fresh otherwise)
3 cloves garlic
1 onion (I prefer red ones, but any will do)
1 celery branch (optional)
1tsp smoked paprika
3tbsp olive oil
100g feta cheese
3 balls of pizza dough (for the flatbreads)
Last month I turned 29 with my baby girl by my side. It seems I am really an adult now….and what fun ! Being an adult means I get to choose what I will have for dinner every day of the week (hello pizza with ice cream for dessert), I can buy stuff without asking for permission, and I can watch 12 episodes of Stranger Things without anyone telling me to go to bed. And, maybe, regret all of it the next day.
Being an adult also means having kids in the vicinities, because well, my friends have become adults too. On those days, planning a meal everyone will like can become a challenge, which means I have become quite an expert at cooking mezze.
Mezzes are a format rather than a recipe, a way of thinking your meal out, composed of different dishes where everyone can find something they like, and gets to fill their own plate, much like the spanish tapas. Because they originate from the Middle-East I tend to revolve around Mediterranean flavours, drizzling tahini everywhere, crumbling feta, and mopping it all up with flatbreads.
So here is part 1 of the Mediterranean Mezze Feast I cooked up last week-end for my friends and the three kids that ran around yelling “ON A FAIM ON A FAIM ON A FAIM” (for non-french speakers : they were hungry). There was a shakshuka with glorious runny eggs, my favorite quick flatbread with muhammara (recipes coming up in part 2), some hummus and a few salads.
Everyone left the table happy, and every plate was licked clean.
Eggs poached in a rich, spicy tomato-based stew, dotted with feta cheese and olive oil…I have not yet met someone to resist the mix ! Switch up the spices (ras-el-hanout will be great, use some chili if you like a kick, some dried herbs such as oregano) and use up what you have : some sad-looking greens or the weird end of a zucchini can find their way to the pan.
Start by chopping everything : the garlic finely, the onion and celery branch in thin slices, the red pepper (if using fresh) in rough slices, and the tomatoes in 4/6 pieces depending on the size of your tomatoes.
When you have all the ingredients ready, start your fire. Place a cast iron pan on top of the oven, pour the olive oil and the spices and leave to sizzle a bit. When they start to smell fragrant, add all of the vegetables mentioned above at once and sprinkle with salt.
Now, forget about your shakshuka for a good hour at least on top of the oven, if the fire is going strong keep an eye on it after the first 45mn. It is the time to make the muhammara by roasting the peppers inside the oven if you’d like, to bake some flatbreads, or a few pizzas. Alternatively, put your feet up, grab a good book, and chill in the sun.
Check on it from time to time : I like mine very thick and rich so I tend to leave it to bubble away for nearly two hours, but start tasting after an hour and stop when you like (or when someone starts to yell “ON A FAIM”).
When you try it and think “OOMPH”, grab your eggs, and crack one egg per person inside the sauce. Cover with a lid, or place inside the oven (at around 200 to 300°C) so that the eggs will cook. You want the white to be set and the yolk to remain runny, it should take about 2-3 minutes maximum. Once the eggs are set, remove from the fire straight away, crumble the feta cheese on top, add the burnt red pepper if using, and enjoy in good company with a nice crunchy salad, your muhammara and flatbread, some pita bread, or a good slice of sourdough.
Or (why not ?), you could pour the sauce on top of a pizza base, crack the eggs, crumble the feta, and bake for Shakshuka pizza ! Being an adult is the best.