From Beirut to London in 100 Dishes

shakshoukeh — or waiting for winter

DSC_1096Outside tonight here on the edge of London by the Thames, we are deep into November and it’s eight degrees.  I notice that it’s 19 degrees in Beirut.  The difference is here we are still waiting for winter, while in Lebanon, you can simply drive straight up into the mountains DSC_0405and you can have a quick shot of all the winter you want.  For years, everyone here has been trying to persuade me of the glory of having four real seasons.  I am still not convinced.  In Lebanon, you can do all that in a day’s drive — summer by the sea, spring in the Bekaa, autumn in the foothills and winter in the high mountains at Faraya — and still go sunbathing in the afternoon.  I miss the sea, the effortlessly blue sky and the mostly gentle sun.  Every Christmas, my first instinct is to go somewhere hot.  My children violently disagree.  They may be half Arabic and half English — noss-wa-noss as we nicknamed them just to annoy them — but at this time of year, it’s the English half that wins out.  For them, it’s a cheat and a disappointment if they can’t get buried away somewhere deep in the snow.  So, we wait for real winter – the winter that usually seems to show up too early or too late when no one really wants it or expects it.  But just occasionally, it is just right and heart-stoppingly beautiful .

DSC_0709The English pride themselves on their hearty, warming dishes.  Quite rightly.  But we can do that, too.  Our soups and stews in Lebanon or tajines in Morocco — both countries sharing high white mountains as well as burning coastal plains  — are perfect as the temperature sinks to zero or below.  DSC_0235If you want a breakfast that will see you through the cold, shakshoukeh is as effective as porridge or a full English — and lighter and better for you.  It mixes peppers, chili, eggs and tomatoes.  There are variations across the Middle East.  Some say it’s a North African dish, others that it originated with the Ottomans.  The peppers and paprika make me think it’s more likely to be the latter, as the Ottomans brought those ingredients  into the cuisine of many countries they ruled or influenced — right across the Balkans and as far as Hungary to the north.  It’s actually a dish you can have at any time, but I have always thought it was best at breakfast, probably because of the eggs (which some recipes don’t use).  This winter I may still be dreaming of an island in the Pacific, but my children will be praying for snow — a still, icy landscape with woodsmoke rising above bare trees.  A plate of shakshoukeh and a boiling black coffee and I guess I’m ready to go.



2 green peppers
1 large spoon of olive oil
2 garlic cloves diced
1 tea spoon of fresh red chili diced
2 medium size tomatoes diced
1 tea spoon of dry coriander
1/2 tea spoon of paprika
1/2 tea spoon salt
1/2 tea spoon of black pepper
3 large organic eggs
1 large spoon of parsley for decoration


Wash the pepper, remove the seeds and stems then cut into small pieces

In a large non stick frying pan heat the olive oil and add the garlic and red chili

Fry them for couple of minutes or until soft, then add the diced peppers

Reduce temperature and stir from time to time or until slightly soft

Add the diced tomatoes, the dry coriander, paprika, salt and pepper

Stir and leave to simmer for 5 minutes

Stir from time to time so the shakshoukeh doesn’t stick on the bottom pan

Crack the 3 eggs on top of the peppers and leave for an extra few minutes or until the egg yolks are cooked

Try not too stir too much, garnish with parsley and serve hot with pita bread.DSC_1106


  1. Delicious. I love the combination of egg, capsicum, chili and tomato at breakfast, whether it’s shakshoukeh, the Turkish menemen, Mexican huevos rancheros, Indian and Pakistani masala omelettes and so on. I shall be trying your recipe for my Boxing Day brunch! Season’s greetings and wishing you peace and happiness for 2015.


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