Şakşuka – just the name sounds like something delicious, isn’t it true ?? Saksuka might be Turkey’s response to the French vegetable dish ratatouille – one vegetarian dish filled with delicious fried vegetables wrapped in tomato sauce. Naturally the vegetables differs depending on the French or the Turkish version, but the principles are basically the same. Saksuka can be used as an independent sidedish, but is most common as a part of a larger meze table,where you have several small dishes, that are used as small starters, appetizers or snacks.
I have really loved Saksuka since the first time, I tasted it almost 20 years ago. Maybe it’s because the taste and ingredients are recognisable, and because it is very rich and tasty, We often use it at home as a sidedish to steaks, chicken, fish or köfte. If there are leftovers, it’s a huge delicacy to eat for lunch together with ex. cold meatballs. Especially when we are in Turkey, we have often bring Saksuka to a picnic along with a good bread and other small delicious dishes as such. dolma, ezme, cacik, hummus, eggplant salad etc.
This summer we were staying with our good friends in Izmir. They knows that we all love Saksuka, so they were so sweet to make it for us one evening – even on the open fire in the garden. It is only recommended, because the smoke really adds a finesse to the food. The whole experience of sitting 3 women and chop vegetables, cook and braise and try to talk in two languages, was just really nice. The pictures are also from there – hopefully you can feel the good mood.
If you haven’t tried Saksuka before, I can really only recommend to try it. I have yet to meet anyone, who does not like it. It is also fairly easy to prepare, if you want to make it. This version is of course from Antalya, but it doesn’t vary taht much in the rest of the country.
For 4-6 people, you’ll need:
2 long eggplants (they do not have as many cores as the round ones). The aubergines must be partially peeled off, so they get a kind of zebra pattern (this is to remove some of the natural bitterness, that is in the peel). The aubergines must be cut into large cubes.
1 large baking potato (or 2 small). Peel and cut also into large cubes.
about 2-3 long green peppers (not strong)
1 sweet long red pepper
½ kg beef tomato – half chopped into cubes, the other half must be grated on a grater
about 2 garlic cloves, depending on how much you like (the dish should not taste much of garlic)
2 tablespoons conc. Tomato puree
1 tsp salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
possibly 1 teaspoon sugar
Olive oil and sunflower oil for frying
You may also use an onion or squash if you wish. I don’t because I then find it too similar to the French ratatouille.
It is important, that you cut most vegetables into equal, bite-sized pieces, so it looks nice and symmetric. The eggplants are allowed to be slightly larger, as they fall together during cooking. I usually cut the eggplants (and squash if you use one) and put them in salted water with a little lemon juice in for one hour. That pulls some of the liquid from the eggplants, so they do not sputters as much, when you fry them. Before you fry them, you must let them drain in a sieve and press rest of liquid out.
Put copious amounts of half olive oil and half sunflower oil to the pan and heat. Cook potatoes and peppers separately and put them on lots of fat absorbent kitchen paper, and fry the eggplants afterwards. Also take them up and put on fat absorbent paper, when finished. Put tomatoes in the pan and let them get soft and tender (they have to turn almost liquid). Tear the garlic cloves in with a grater. Add all the fried vegetables and the tomato purée and let it cook slowly for about 20 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper (and possibly a little sugar to highlight tomato taste).
You can now choose to serve the Saksuka warm (but let it shill for a moment) with your other sidedishes or – even better – let it cool in the refrigerator for a few hours. Saksuka is meant as a cold dish. It tastes absolutely best, if it rests a little – if possible till the day after. This gives the flavors time to develop, while allowing the olive oil to come forward. It is a oily dish, but it wouldn’t be right to spare on the oil, because it gives so much character and taste to this dish.
Afiyet olsun – Enjoy the refreshments. I really hope that you will enjoy it …