I’m pleased to announce that I have, for the second time this cursed year, unexpectedly found myself in government-mandated quarantine!
When we left for the U.K., there was no quarantine upon return to Switzerland (there was on arrival in the U.K., but we knew that). Of course, travel was not advised and we were well aware that anything could happen, and I know that we are covidiots for travelling home for Christmas, but we didn’t exactly anticipate the government’s announcement that a mutated super covid was spreading across Britain. In any case, there was a point at which we were unsure whether we’d be able to get back to Switzerland at all, as seemingly the entire world closed its borders to Britain, but the Swiss government very kindly allowed residents to fly back provided they quarantined for 10 days on arrival.
*Please don’t interpret this as a whiney post, I’m perfectly happy to be in quarantine here and know that anything irritating about the situation is a first world problem.
New Year’s Eve 2020 is about to be lit. We’ll be in our flat playing Catan with Tom’s family over zoom.
A consequence of this unexpected quarantine is that I hadn’t specifically stocked up on food in advance; luckily, I am a doomsday prepper by nature so always have a packed pantry full of supplies. We were also lucky enough to get a grocery delivery slot for this coming Wednesday (they’re in short supply at this time of year), but until then it’s freezer (ours is tiny so this isn’t much help) and pantry food only.
Which brings me to the point of this post, which is to share a recipe for harissa-tomato-chickpea shakshuka with burnt aubergine, made entirely from store cupboard ingredients. I’m aware that the definition of store cupboard ‘staple’ is entirely subjective – more on that at the end.
Harissa Chickpea ‘Shakshuka’ with Burnt Aubergine and Tahini Sauce
I didn’t want to commit food appropriation with my loose interpretation of a shakshuka here, hence the inverted commas.
Serves two greedy people, possibly with some leftover tahini sauce
For the stew:
500g tomato passata (or tinned tomatoes)
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
250g cooked chickpeas
1 tbsp harissa paste
Salt, to taste
For the sauce:
2 1/2 tbsp tahini
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp water
1 tsp cumin
Salt, to taste
As a topping:
2 tbsp burnt aubergine from a jar
Handful of roasted & chopped pistachios
For the sauce:
This hardly requires a method – basically, just stir together all the above ingredients, adjusting where too thick or thin by adding extra tahini or water. I made this while the stew was stewing.
For the stew:
1- Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan with 1 tbsp olive oil over low heat. Cook until starting to turn golden (about 2 minutes), then add 1 tsp cumin and stir through, cooking for a further minute.
2- Pour in the passata and turn up the heat to medium, allowing it to come to a simmer. Add tomato paste and pomegranate molasses, stirring through. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes until it is thickening.
3- Add the chickpeas and harissa paste. If getting a bit too thick, add some stock or water – it’s a matter of preference. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
4- Crack eggs into pot, on top of the existing mixture, so that they can poach into it. Cover with the lid and cook until eggs are done – this should take about 5 minutes, but keep an eye on them!
5- Serve in individual bowls with a swirl of tahini sauce, 2 tbsp of burnt aubergine (per serving – it’s low cal), za’atar and pistachios.
Leftover rating: 3/3 if you don’t cook the eggs in – once you’ve done that, it won’t reheat so nicely. The stew itself will keep for ages though and freezes well. The sauce will also keep for up to a week.
Serving Suggestions / Swaps / Tips
This is a recipe born of necessity – normally it would feature more vegetables, most probably bell peppers and fresh aubergine, so feel free to add those at the point where the garlic is getting golden. I would also top it with feta, akkawi, greek yoghurt, labneh or halloumi were I not so ingredient-poor.
The chickpeas can be tinned and as can the tomatoes. In the absence of pomegranate molasses, I’d add 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tbsp honey. The burnt aubergine is beautiful and I love it but I realise it’s quite a niche ingredient, so feel free to omit or grill your own. As ever, your local Arab store will do all of the more niche ingredients such as this; in Lugano, I randomly managed to get burnt aubergine at Otto’s discount store in Grancia, so there you go!
I noted above that I’d address this at the end. I feel a bit like Ottolenghi writing in the Guardian about obscure ingredients he deems ‘staples’ – I know many people won’t have these in their pantry. Still, if you wish to quarantine-proof yourself, there’s no harm stocking up on easy, delicious, long-life pantry goods. Hopefully 2021 won’t see another run on fresh food, but you never know.
If you wish to join me in the liberal metropolitan elite, here are some of my faves for a well-stocked pantry:
- Tinned tomatoes / passata are a must.
- Alllll the beans and pulses – tinned and dried alike. Healthy and filling and versatile.
- Also allll the nuts, also filling, healthy and versatile.
- Equally, alllll the grains – quinoa, farro, pearl barley, amaranth…
- Pasta, rice and noodles are your friends.
- Do not fear tinned / jarred vegetables – they are cheap, easy, healthy, and especially useful if you have a small freezer and repeatedly find yourself in quarantine.
- Keep a good spice rack!
- I always have a jar of tahini handy. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated if you use it fairly quickly and don’t live in an oven (i.e. Hong Kong)
- Keep a steady supply of oils and vinegars. These are the backbone of many dishes.
- Condiments are life savers – soy sauce, pomegranate molasses, harissa, sambal oelek, hot sauce, lao gan ma, miso paste – the list goes on, and I’m not sure all of these belong in the same category, but they’re all great.
- Pre-squeezed / preserved lemon and lime juice are great!
That’s it! I’ll see what else I can rustle up in advance of our blessed Wednesday food delivery. Sending love from my flat…