Mediterranean: Chakchouka (Shakshouka)

ChakchoukaMy love for spices and inclination to Mediterranean cuisine will be very notable among the dishes that I’m going to share with you. There is something about the aroma of middle eastern spices that opens up the senses and the flavourful taste that it gives taking your imagination to the middle eastern local market setting.

As my first entry for Summayah’s Kitchen, I’m sharing with you one of my family’s favourite breakfast dish — the Chakchouka. This traditional northern African dish is staple in Algeria, Libya, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia and can simply be described as eggs pouched on top of a thick, rich, spiced stewed tomatoes. It was believed that from the latter is where this dish originated. I prefer the Tunisian version of Chakchouka for it’s simple, easy to grab ingredients, and of course, those green, red and yellow (when available) sweet peppers. I personally like sweet peppers (meaty ones in particular). They have this flavour that blends very well with Arabic spices. If you can spare more time in preparing this dish, I would highly recommend that you roast the peppers till the skin is totally burned, discard the skin and just use the meat. The smoky taste of the roasted peppers makes a wonder of difference in this already flavourful dish.

However, since most moms doesn’t have much of a luxury when it comes to time when prepping for the family’s first meal of the day, here now is my basic recipe for this colourful, appetizing, hearty breakfast dish:

3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium size white onion – diced

1 large red sweet pepper / capsicum – julienned (preferably sliced a half-inch width)

1 large green sweet pepper / capsicum – julienned (preferably sliced a half-inch width)

1 large yellow sweet pepper / capsicum – julienned (preferably sliced a half-inch width) *optional

3 cloves of garlic – crushed, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon spanish paprika

400g canned chopped tomatoes (if using fresh tomatoes, make sure to use red, juicy ripe ones and allow more time simmering,  gently pressing out the juice from the tomatoes, and gradually adding vegetable or chicken stock to make sure the sauce doesn’t dry out)

4 free range / organic eggs

Freshly baked Baguets or Toast

Heat the frying pan and add the oil over a medium heat and cook the onion for 2 minutes. Add the red, green (and yellow when available) peppers, garlic, and chili, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the tomatoes, cumin, paprika and salt. Mix well and simmer gently, uncovered, for 10 minutes until thickened. Using the back of a spoon, make four indentations in the mixture and crack one egg into each. Cover the pan and simmer for five minutes in low heat until the eggs are set.

SERVE with crusty bread or lightly buttered whole grain toast on the side. Enjoy!

Italian: Red and White Baked Macaroni

My kids wish is my command, and when they ask for something cheesy, Aged Sharp Cheddar  I know that my best seller béchamel sauce will be the answer. But since that day was kind of a heavy one.. as heavy as the laundry bag that had been my generous companion that morning; I thought that maybe I could try to sit around a little bit, and take it a little easy for the rest of the day. I thought of making them a Red and White (sauce) Baked Macaroni rather than the typical Carbonara pasta (which the kids liked too! and refer to as ‘Milk Pasta’).  Blue Cheese-croppedThe latter is easier to make but it seems to me like the first would save me for the day. Investing a little more time to make two kinds of sauces, along with the layering and baking should be worth it. After all, once it’s cooked and if anyone gets that never ending calling of a hungry stomach, just gonna have to shove it into the oven for few minutes, and devour! So, let’s get started..

RED SAUCE (*Bolognese Sauce Recipe)

500 grams lean ground beef

400 grams diced canned tomatoes

2 tbsp Tomato Purée

1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

1 cup beef stock (from tenderized beef)

2 medium size onion – minced

6 cloves garlic – minced

2 tbsp. extra Virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp Spanish paprika

1/4 tsp Powdered Oregano (may use dried or fresh, whichever is available)

A dash of ground Cayenne Pepper

Handful of fresh Basil

Salt & Pepper to taste

Instruction: Tenderize ground beef in 2 cups of water. Drain the meat and set aside  beef stock. Heat the pan, add the extra virgin olive oil, and sauté garlic and onions. Add the tenderized ground beef and sauté until beef is cooked enough. Put some salt and pepper to taste, and add the Spanish Paprika, Oregano and Cayenne. When using dried herbs, this is the time to put them so they get cooked enough unlocking their flavor.  Note that when using fresh herbs, it has to be added a little towards the end so you don’t over-cook and kill its flavor. Leave some for garnishing as you desire. Add the diced tomatoes and let simmer. Add the tomato purée, balsamic vinegar, and gradually the beef stock. Let it simmer in medium to slow heat making sure you get the right consistency or thickness of the sauce. Note that as the sauce thickens, it has tendency to burn underneath giving bitter taste to the dish, mix occasionally I would suggest. Lastly, add on your fresh herbs, some salt and pepper to taste. Set aside the cooked Red Sauce.

PASTA

600 grams Elbow Macaroni Pasta

2 liters of Water

1 tbsp Cooking Oil

1/4 tsp salt

Instruction: Boil 2 litres of water. It takes time to boil such amount from the pot, thus I would normally boil water ahead from my electric kettle and just transfer the hot water to the pot when I’m ready to cook my pasta. Add the oil and salt to your pot of boiling water. When water is boiling, put the Elbow  Macaroni and cook until Al dente. Check cooking instructions indicated in the packaging of your pasta as your guide. Place the cooked pasta in a drainer and quickly let through running tap water from, and set aside.

*Turn on your Oven to preheat at 350 degrees F.

WHITE SAUCE (TWO-CHEESE  BECHAMEL)

100 grams Danish Blue

150 grams Aged Sharp Cheddar

1 tbsp Butter

2 cups Cooking Creme

1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3/4 cup water

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Instruction: Heat your sauce pan, and melt the butter. Put the cooking Creme, and all your cut up cheeses, plus your pinch of ground nutmeg. Keep mixing until the cheese melts. Check the thickness. Add gradually the dissolved cornstarch or flour to the mixture while mixing thoroughly. Let the mixture boil in medium to low until consistency is reduced to desired thickness. I prefer when it’s still a little runny than heavy, it’s for the sauce to easily get absorbed by the pasta when baking.

LAYERING AND BAKING

Drizzle your baking pan with 1 tsp oil. Coat it as well with 4-5 tbsp of Bolognese sauce.
Place the macaroni as your first layer. Then the Bolognese sauce, and Cheese sauce. I made 2 layers but it will all depend how wide or deep your baking pan is. I would normally have the cheese sauce as the top layer, adding on left over cheese crumbs from the chopping board before placing to the oven. Place the pan into the preheated oven and Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Serve hot with chili sauce or Tabasco, and sticks of toasted focaccia bread on the side. Enjoy!

Red and White Baked Macaroni

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Summayah’s Kitchen!

summayah_s kitchen logo-SMALL WEB SIZEI am SUMMAYAH, a muslim convert from the Philippines. I’m a home-based wife, and a mom to the two most loving and hyperactive creatures — my sons, Sofian and Yunus. They are the spices to my life and the ones who brings me so much delight looking, experimenting and cooking various kind of dishes. I am blessed to have children who aren’t reluctant to try and find pleasure in eating food that are normally not in the line of taste to most of the kids at their age these days. Eating most of the time at home, and not giving in to fast food cravings have become a way of life, an even pleasurable one to be honest.  They love to eat, and as a mom, I only would want them to have the best eating experience in each and every meal they’ll have! And Oh, did I say already that I was making good developments in my plating?

I put up this site to personally note most of my cooking, and life explorations as a food lover, mother, and a proud homemaker. The tasks and responsibilities of motherhood are oftentimes limiting but my kitchen has taken me to places I’ve never physically been. Who would have gone to Tunisia for breakfast, Italy for lunch, and Thailand for dinner in the same day? With good research skills (thanks to my husband for that, he surely knows what he wants to have on his next meal!), some creativity working along with the ingredients and tools that you have at hand, and that real, legitimate passion for good food — It is unimaginable what possibilities you can make out of your kitchen!

Little by little I’ll delightfully share with you my recipes and life experiences. I hope that you will eventually find joy to keep visiting me here at Summayah’s Kitchen