So what do you make when one of your favourite food bloggers comes to town? This was my dilemma a few days ago when Dan came to my little house for a visit. A Saskatoon ex-pat, and an all-around awesome dude, Dan is one of my favourite people in the whole world. He does all kinds of great things for the Calgary culinary scene, and he's even started a program that teaches university kids how to cook. Like I said, dude is cool. So I do what you're not supposed to do when a guest you wanna impress is soon to be seated at your table: I make recipes I've never made before. For carefree entertaining, you're supposed to stick with the tried and true. But not me. I go into uncharted territory. However three things brought me to safety: 1) The source. It's Ottolenghi. It's bound to be perfect. 2) It's eggs. How hard can you mess up eggs? 3) It's homemade bread. Even if it's not perfect, it's still perfect. Plus I've seen shakshuka a million places around the interwebs and figured it was time to share it here. So glad I did. Unbeknownst to me, it's one of Dan's favourite dishes. Also unbeknownst to me, we were practically wearing identical plaid shirts. Great minds! Great taste!
If you aren't in the know about shakshuka - it's a great baked egg dish, with a sweet and robust North African tomato/pepper sauce. Scented with cumin, thyme, cilantro, parsley, paprika and cayenne it's a keen reminder that eggs can be much more than poached, fried, scrambled or over easy. They come to life in this dish, gently cooking in the sweet and spicy sauce. Ideal brunch fare too as the eggs hold beautifully while you wait for your favourite people to arrive. You can even save yourself time and make the sauce a day ahead, gently re-heat then add the eggs. Genius. Plus like any good tomato sauce - it tastes even better the next day.
Given the saucy nature of the dish (and the people eating it!) a good crusty bread was in order. I could have just popped to the bakery to get a loaf of sourdough, but both my favourite bakeries in the city are closed on Mondays...so I made my own. And it was easy! Given my recent job transformation, I figure if I know my way around gluten free yeast bread, surely to god I can knock it out of the park with a gluten full yeast bread. And I did. There's something about salty, olive-oil soaked foccacia that is the cats pajamas - it was the perfect instrument for soaking up the tomato sauce and yolky bits of egg. Dan arrived just in time, otherwise I dare to think I could have eaten the whole pan, fresh out of the oven, by myself. Oh the carbs! Oh who cares!
So because I pretty much straight up used the recipes from the sources, with small adaptations, I'm going to just scoot you over there for the recipes. And truth: I'm exhausted. Since I started getting up with the birds and going to bed while it's still light out (oh the life of a baker!) my bedtime is fast approaching. Y'all understand, right?
For the shakshuka, head over here. Plus you can watch Mr. Ottolenghi prepare the dish in front of your eyes. He's so cute. The only thing I did differently was cut back on the oil. 3/4 cup seemed outrageous so I knocked it back to 1/4 cup and it was perfect. Also, no cumin seeds so I just added 1 tsp ground cumin to the peppers while they were cooking. Also, I have no saffron in the house so I just subbed in 1 tsp smoked paprika. It was heaven. I had great feta on hand so I scattered about 1/3 cup to the dish after I cracked the eggs in. Plus I made half the recipe for Dan and I. Lord knows we don't need to eat 4 eggs each!
The foccacia recipe can be found here. I pretty much followed every word. Again, since it was only the two of us I made the full batch and froze half of it for later foccacia baking pleasure. Can't wait!
And that my friends is how food bloggers brunch. Dan was a total peach while I was taking the photos. He understood that I needed to move the coffee cups here, and the tomatoes over there, and how the thyme has to be just so. He didn't complain that the coffee was cold (drank it anyway!) and even helped scoot my cat inside after she jumped on the table, but before I brought out the shakshuka, thank goodness. No, you can never have too many awesome egg dishes in your recipe arsenal, or good food blogging pals. Someone has to keep an eye out for the cat hair on the tablecloth.