Friday, 18 March 2011

SAKSUKA

On the menu of my local Turkish restaurant (Diners Turkish Delight - a greasy spoon cafe by day), Saksuka is subtitled "Turkish ratatouille". Indeed, it shares many of the same components as rataouille - aubergines, peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes - but I prefer it to ratatouille. It is usually served as a mezze dish, with a dollop of Tzatziki and warm Turkish bread.

The trick with this dish is to cut all the vegetables into small cubes, approx. 1-2cms. Normally, I am not terribly good at finely chopping or cubing, but this dish really benefits from it. The addition of dill (fresh or dried) and smoked paprika give it its exotic, Eastern flavour. It is great served as a mezze, or an accompaniment to roasted or barbecued lamb. I quite often serve it with couscous, with Feta cheese crumbled over the top and a generous sprinkling of fresh coriander (by which I mean a big handful - I love the stuff!) for a light vegetarian supper dish. You can vary the ingredients, though I would recommend always including aubergine, red pepper, onion and plenty of garlic. I have had it made with carrots and butternut squash, potatoes and courgettes, and I suspect that one would find regional varieties around Turkey. This is my version:

Serves 4 as a mezze, 2 as a light main meal

1 medium-sized aubergine, cut into small cubes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red, yellow or orange pepper, cubed
A generous handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 peeled garlic cloves, crushed
A good lug of olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
A tsp of smoked paprika
A generous handful of fresh dill (and coriander, if liked)
Half a block of Feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or wok and add the aubergines. Cook until the aubergines are just turning brown. You may need to add more oil as aubergines are like sponges. Then add the onions and peppers and cook until just soft before adding the tomatoes. Check seasoning. Add the smoked paprika and cook until everything is soft and melded. Just before serving, add the dill (if I am using dried dill tops, I add them earlier in the process). Serve with the crumbled Feta (if using), more fresh dill and coriander, and plenty of warm pitta bread or Turkish pide, flatbreads or couscous. Also nice served at room temperature.

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