Last winter we were looking for recipes that made use of the local winter vegetables. We came across one on the New York Times Cooking website (a flipping great resource) called Cabbage and Pepper Chakchoukah. This recipe was perfect as a) it used up a fair amount of Cabbage, a Newfoundland staple, and b) it is topped off with eggs. After cooking a few Yotam Ottolenghi Recipes, I’ve discovered that everything is better with an egg on top.
When it comes to cabbage, I’m not always a fan. Growing up, we were frequently served up boiled cabbage. It had a bit of butter, salt and pepper – but it was still, essentially, boiled cabbage. Thus I ate everything around it while I mulled on how to get out of eating the light green soggy mass on my plate. Yet as I got older I discovered that cabbage could actually be edible – especially when doused in sweet chilli sauce and soy sauce in Chicken Chow Mein.
Traditionally Chakchoukah (or Shakshuka) originated in North Africa – a classic dish of Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. It is often served as a street food with fresh bread and is commonly eaten for breakfast. Typically the dish is made of peppers and tomatoes with eggs. The fact that the New York Times’ recipe contains cabbage is the product of the New York Times’ writer, Martha Shulman, and her adaptation of the meal.
And what an addition it is. So not only does cabbage taste fantastic (when cooked in the right way), but it has some pretty good nutritional qualities too:
- It is a great source of Vitamin C
- It contains a good deal of glutamine. This is an amino acid with anti-inflammatory properties. Indeed, cabbage has not only been used in European folk medicine to sooth inflammation but also to treat pneumonia, ulcers, dysentery, boils, deafness and warts – though perhaps not all with the same effectiveness.
- It has also been said that cabbage can help relieve engorged breasts of breastfeeding mothers… Well if it works, I guess it couldn’t hurt popping a few leaves in the old bra.
- It is has a high fibre content – always good for the belly.
- It’s low on Calories (but whose counting).
The Cabbage and Pepper Chakchoukah itself is pretty easy to make. First chop up onion, peppers, garlic, cabbage, chilli and coriander. In a large pot, add onion and cook; then add peppers and cook more; then add garlic and cook a little more; then add cabbage, chilli, coriander seeds as well as cumin seeds and cook more; then add harissa and cook a little more; then add tomatoes and cook more. Phew. Next, add a few coriander leaves and finally – the best part – make a few dents in the cabbage mix, crack an egg in each dent, cover the pot and cook until the eggs are set. Beautiful.
When cooking this meal we have stuck pretty close to the recipe. It does say you can switch out the harissa for cayenne, but if you can find the harissa it’s worth it. It gives the recipe a few extra layers of various spice flavours. I’ve read recipes where they suggest that some of the trouble with getting the eggs perfectly cooked can be avoided by cooking the eggs separately and adding them on top when serving. But where’s the fun in that?! There’s something magical about cracking eggs into the little hollows and watching them set in place. Anyway, after a few goes, you get to know the timing for getting the eggs right. Really, there is something gorgeous when they’re perfectly cooked.
Alam, S. M. 2011. Cabbage. Pakistan & Gulf Economist, 30: 85-87.
Hatfield, G. 2004. Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine: Old World and New World Traditions. ABC-CLIO; CA, USA.
Sunday Business Post. 2012. Home cook: Shakshouka shakes it up.
Shulman, M. 2014. Cabbage and Pepper Chakchoukah. New York Times [Online]. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/27/health/cabbage-and-pepper-chakchoukah.html?_r=0 [Accessed 11/11/2016].