A Libyan Shakshuka That Will Never Change
Recipe Roots: Tripoli, Libya > Ashkelon, Israel > Tel Aviv
Shared by Nitza Kardish
Before Nitza Kardish was born, her family lived well in Tripoli, Libya’s capital city. Family members shared a large traditional home with a well in the center and food, including ingredients like a large amberjack fresh from the Mediterranean every Tuesday, were commonplace. As the family lore goes, a lamb was slaughtered every Monday and Thursday for the extended family to eat and to share, she explained when we joined her in her home in Tel Aviv.
In Israel, where her family moved in 1949, money was tighter and meat in shorter supply. Nitza remembers a lamb was slaughtered only once a year, for Passover (after having lived with the family for three weeks). To compensate, Nitza’s mother Maloo, a gifted cook who protected and passed down the family’s recipes, relied heavily on eggs from their two chickens and easier to come by ingredients like potatoes and flour.
Nitza shared three of those recipes with us, including ma’akud a baked dish made with mashed potatoes, carrots, zucchini, and ground beef that Maloo made on Fridays. It was kept warm overnight and eaten Saturday morning for brunch after morning prayers. There was also a simple homemade bread Maloo made to dip into Libyan shakshuka, prepared with just a handful of ingredients: fresh tomatoes, oil, garlic, paprika, chili peppers, salt, pepper, and eggs. Maloo would cook down the fresh tomatoes for hours, Nitza recalls, until they formed a savory jam. She kept the prized sauce on hand throughout the week and would add eggs to it when she wanted to serve shakshuka.
Today, Nitza enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and trying new recipes, but she would never alter her mother’s. And “I never eat shakshuka in other places,” she says. “It is only mine — from her.”
Maloo’s Libyan Shakshuka
Time: 30 minutes + 4 hours cooking time
½ cup olive oil
5 lbs. tomatoes, grated
Cloves from a head of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon salt
2 whole green chili peppers, like poblano, serrano, or jalapeño
1. Combine the olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, paprika, salt, and 2 cups of water in a large skillet or braiser.
2. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower to the lowest possible flame and cook for 4-5 hours. This may require moving your skillet to the smallest burner on the stove. Stir occasionally and add water, 1 cup at a time, as necessary until a deeply flavorful, thick, jammy base forms.
3. To finish, gently crack the eggs over the sauce. Cover and cook on medium-high heat until the whites are hardened but the yolk is still runny, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately with homemade bread.
4. Sauce can be frozen or stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Nitza’s Homemade Bread
Time: 30 minutes + 30 minutes baking time + 1 hour rising time
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 ¼ cup lukewarm water
1 egg, whisked, for wash
1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1. Place the flour, yeast, olive oil, salt, sugar, and water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Knead on medium until dough comes together and starts to pull away from the side of the mixing bowl, about 10 minutes. Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand until smooth and uniform, about 5 more minutes. Place in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
3. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into an 8 inch rope and tie in a knot.
4. Brush each knot with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
5. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.
Time: 1 hour
4 Large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼” rounds
1 medium zucchini, peeled and sliced into half moons
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ lb. ground beef
2 eggs, hard-boiled, coarsely chopped
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
A pinch of cinnamon
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 lemon, for serving
1. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a gentle simmer and cook until tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
2. While the potatoes cook, bring a medium pot of well salted water to a boil. Add the carrots and cook, until just tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, remove them from the water and set aside. Add the zucchini, and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes, then drain and add to the carrots.
3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper. Sauté, using a wooden spoon to break the meat up into little pieces as it cooks, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
5. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher or the back of a fork. Add the carrots, zucchini, ground beef, hard boiled eggs, regular eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, remaining 2 teaspoons of salt, and remaining ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Mix well until evenly combined.
6. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium sized pan that can go into the oven. Transfer the potato mixture from the bowl into the pan and flatten well to fill the pan.
7. Cook on medium-high for 10 minutes until stable and browned on the bottom. Take a large plate, place it on the rim of the pan, and using potholders, turn the pan upside down to invert the Ma’akud onto the plate. Then, gently slide the turned Ma’akud back into the pan, browned side up.
8. Bake in the oven for an additional 30-45 minutes until cooked through and browned.
9. Let rest for 5 minutes, then slice into triangles and serve with a wedge of lemon.