Weeknight suppers need to be fuss free, at least in our household. By 6 PM we like to be at the supper table and by the time little Saira finishes her plate it is usually approaching 7 PM. Nights are routined, leaving us very little time to waste until she makes off to bed. During the weekend I usually plan ahead, but not everything can be cooked in advance nor taste the same re-heated. Curries work wonderfully, so does lasagna, a pot of kichuri( a lentil and rice porridge) or chilli, meat loaf – but not everything. I am always looking for ideas and recipes that leave me enough time to enjoy with my family. I love to make something so versatile that (without much effort) the same dish can be changed up to create different meals.
Have you ever had the Tunisian dish called “shakshouka” (a stewed tomato dish with poached eggs)? It is one of our family favourites and is the inspiration behind this entry to the Best in Main Category of the Canadian Lentils Recipe Revelations Challenge. While trying to come up with a dish for the main course I began wondering about ways to incorporate more lentils into our diet at home. I figured lentil lovers would venture into any lentil recipe, but what about the non lentil lovers such as the two I have at home? If I want to submit a recipe into the challenge I need to believe in it and I need to practice it. It also needs to be fuss free and versatile.
I decided to do a new take on the traditional shakshouka by introducing lentils as the main base. A Punjabi egg “tadka” is a very sought-after spicy lentil dish that incorporates eggs into the final finish, much like the shakshouka but with lentils. I drew my inspiration from the spices of the Punjabi tadka and the poached eggs with cheese of the traditional shakshouka. Both shakshouka and tadka are mopped up with breads like pita. I prefer calling it a shakshouka of lentils because of the method of cooking involved and the undeniable look of a traditional shakshouka – gleaming yellow yolks sitting atop a beautiful stewed base, sprinkled with white crumbly cheese and flecks of green parsley. ‘Shakshouka’ really means ‘to mix it up’, so I did!
My version is a keeper in my books. The lentils do not take as long to cook as the stewed tomato base of a traditional version and, once done, I can store it until I am ready to poach my eggs in it … conveniently just before supper. Cooking the base a day or two earlier makes it an easy weeknight supper choice and enhances the taste even further. But the best part of this lentil base is its versatility. It can be made thicker by reheating and rolling it into pitas with salads for lunch the next day. On another day, adding some good melting cheese like Jack or Havarti on top and setting it under the broiler for a few minutes can transform it into a fabulous dip. One pot makes supper, lunch for next day, and a dip for late night TV watching.
What do you think, folks? Does this interest you? Would you give it a try? Your input plays an important role in the final decision making.
My first two entries into the Canadian Lentils Recipes Revelations Challenge are:
Best in Appetizer Category: Lentil Fritters with Shrimp and Oregano
Best in Salad Category: Warm Lentil Salad with Grilled Veg and Cumin
Shakshouka of Lentils with Eggs and Goats Cheese
- Lentil: 1 and 1/4 cups (I use a mixture of green and black )
- Onion: 1 large, diced
- Fresh Garlic: 2 Tbsp, minced
- Fresh Ginger: 2 Tbsp, grated
- Fresh Green Chilli: 3, chopped (see note* below)
- Cumin powder: 3 tsp
- Coriander powder: 2 tsp
- Whole Canned Tomato: 28 oz. can
- Paprika: 1 Tbsp
- Butter: 3 Tbsp
- Eggs: 4
- Goats Cheese: 1/4 cup crumbled
- Parsley or Cilantro: 2 Tbsp, chopped
- Sugar: 1 Tbsp
- Salt: 1 and 1/2 tsp, or as needed
- Pepper: to taste
- Pita Bread: To serve
- Boil lentils in 2 and 3/4 cups of water till well cooked. Most of the water will be absorbed by the time the lentils are cooked. If there is a little bit of water left, leave it with the lentils. Partially mash the lentils with the back of a fork.
- Preheat oven at 350F.
- Heat butter in an oven proof pan or a cast iron skillet, add onions, garlic, ginger and fresh green chillis and fry till onions are translucent, about 5-8 minutes on low to medium heat.
- Add the cumin and coriander powder and a table spoon of the tomato juice from the can, and fry for a min or two, until well blended.
- Add the boiled lentils and mix with the onions well.
- Fry for a few minutes, then add the whole can of tomatoes and paprika and bring to a gentle boil. With the back of your spoon break the tomatoes to let the juices out and mash into uneven chunky pieces.
- Add the salt and the sugar and let the lentils boil for about 20 minutes on low to medium heat, covered. When done, take off heat. There should be enough juice left. Add some water if it looks dry, about 1/2 cup or so and heat up again (enough juice for eggs to be able to poach without the lentils drying up).
- When ready to serve, crack the eggs on top, keeping the yolks intact. Sprinkle the goats cheese around the eggs and a little bit of salt on top of the eggs and pop it into the oven.
- If you like your eggs runny, bake for 10 minutes, if you prefer a set yolk add 5 minutes more or bake until it reaches preferred consistency.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro leaves and extra goats cheese, and serve with warm pita bread to scoop up the delicious lentils and soft eggs.
- If you cat find fresh green chills you can substitute them with jalapeño peppers. Devein 2 jalapeño peppers and add instead of fresh green chills.
- If you think you have more lentils than you would be able to eat, set some aside before poaching the eggs. The extra can be for a dip with cheese or your lunch with pita!