Breakfast with a difference: shakshuka and aebleskivers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 February, 2015, 11:22am


My breakfast repertoire is quite limited, probably because it's a meal I rarely eat. People who like breakfast (as opposed to the more luxurious brunch) tend to be divided into two camps: those who favour savoury dishes and those who prefer sweet. Shakshuka (pictured) When I told my friend Celine that I was making shakshuka for this photoshoot, she said, 'I hope you're using the [Yotam] Ottolenghi recipe.' I had been thinking of using that recipe, from the Israeli-born chef's book Plenty, so asked Celine if it was good. She replied, 'It's fantastic, you don't need to change a thing.' I ended up changing it a tiny bit - I added fresh chilli, pimente d'Espelette and feta, and adapted the cooking method slightly, but I agree with her that it's a delicious recipe from an excellent book. 1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds About 150ml olive oil, divided 2 large onions, sliced about 3mm thick 2 red bell peppers 2 yellow bell peppers 1-2 hot green chillies, or more to taste 5-10 grams brown sugar 2 bay leaves 6 small thyme sprigs 2 tbsp chopped parsley 2 tbsp chopped coriander, plus whole leaves for the garnish 1/2 tsp saffron threads 1/2 tsp pimente d'Espelette, or to taste 750 grams red cherry tomatoes, halved Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 4-6 large free-range eggs 100-150 grams feta cheese Cut off the stem and bottom ends of the red and yellow peppers. Remove and discard the core and seeds, then cut the peppers into 5mm-wide strips. Cut the chillies into rounds about 5mm thick (if you want the dish to be less hot, remove the seeds). Heat a dry (unoiled) skillet (preferably cast iron) over a medium flame, add the cumin seeds and stir constantly until fragrant and toasted. Add about 100ml of the olive oil to the pan, stir in the onion and cook over a medium flame until the onion slices are wilted. Add the red and yellow pepper, chilli, sugar, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, chopped parsley and coriander, and the saffron and pimente d'Espelette, then season to taste with salt. Add more oil to the skillet so the ingredients are well coated, then continue to cook for about five minutes, stirring often. Stir in the tomatoes then bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are very soft. If too much liquid evaporates, stir in some water. The consistency should be slightly soupy. The dish can be made in advance to this point and refrigerated; when needed, reheat the mixture until simmering. Ladle the hot shakshuka into four to six shallow, individual-sized serving dishes that can be used on the stovetop. Crack an egg into each portion and crumble the cheese on top. Put the lids on the dishes (or if they don't have lids, cover them tightly with aluminium foil), then simmer them on the stovetop for several minutes or until the eggs are cooked. Garnish with fresh coriander, sprinkle with pepper and serve with warm crusty bread. Aebleskivers I first tasted aebleskivers in Solvang, a small town in California that was settled by Danish immigrants. The tourist stuff they sell is kitschy - souvenirs in the shape of windmills and clogs; but I was fascinated by the aebleskiver-makers, who would cook these small, round doughnuts in the front windows of tea houses to attract customers. The pan is similar to that used to make takoyaki - Japanese octopus balls. This recipe is adapted from one on the eGullet website. The batter works best if it's made in advance, then refrigerated until needed. It takes a little practice to get the hang of the cooking technique, but it's not difficult. 450ml milk 250 grams plain (all-purpose) flour 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional) 25 grams granulated sugar 1/2 tsp fine sea salt 8 grams instant yeast 3 large eggs, at room temperature 30 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm Cooking oil, for greasing the pan Icing sugar, for dusting Fruit preserves, for serving In a saucepan, heat the milk to simmering then remove from the flame. Cool to 35 degrees Celsius, whisking occasionally. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cardamom, sugar, salt and yeast. Whisk the eggs with the milk and butter then pour this mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Whisk briefly to combine - the mixture should be slightly lumpy (like pancake or muffin batter). Leave at room temperature for about an hour or until the mixture rises, then stir again, wrap with cling-film and refrigerate overnight. Take the mixture from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking. Heat the aebleskiver pan over a medium flame. Lightly oil each indentation (it's easiest to do by dipping a bunched-up paper towel in oil then using this to brush the moulds). Stir the batter then pour enough into each indentation to fill it halfway. Leave for about 45 seconds, or until the bottom sets, then use a small fork (or the metal skewer that comes with the takoyaki pan) to give each aebleskiver a quarter turn. The liquid batter in the centre will flow out into the pan. Let the bottom set then turn the aebleskiver again, so the round pancake is now completely inverted. Let the bottom set and brown, and turn them as needed so they colour and cook evenly. Test one of the aebleskivers by cutting into it - if it's still too soft in the middle, adjust the heat so they cook more slowly. Stir the batter each time before cooking the next batch (the flour tends to settle to the bottom). Dust with icing sugar and serve them warm with a spoonful of preserves. Styling Nellie Ming Lee