Ready Steady Cook 3: Shakshuka

Ready Steady Cook Viral Antidote 3 is for Sheila Horner.  Oh Sheila, how we wish we were sitting on your terrace staring at the Sierra de la Contraviesa!!  I’ve cooked this – and variations of it – many times in your kitchen.

Sheila asked what can she do with a tin of tuna, a tin of chick peas and tomato puree.  Well you live in Spain girl, the answer is in your kitchen!

Shakshuka is a smoky mix of onions, red pepper and eggs.  Today I am adding tuna and chick peas.

In a wide shallow pan,  gently fry onions and chopped garlic in lots of olive oil.  When soft, add 2 sliced red peppers, a good heaped teaspoon of hot smoked paprika, four large or six small fresh tomatoes, a tin of chick peas with its liquid, a generous tablespoon of tomato puree. Mix it all together an add another 150ml water, salt, black pepper. Clamp on the lid and simmer away for 10 minutes then remove the lid, stir and simmer for 20 more.  The aim is to reduce the liquid by half but still leave juice in the pan. Now chop a generous handful of parsley and some fresh coriander add a desert spoon of brown sugar and stir the sugar and the herbs into the pan.  Check the seasoning. It should be deeply tomatoey, slightly sweet and thick but not runny. Drain the tuna and dot the chunks over the surface, pushing them down slightly.  Now make four indentations in the mixture and drop an egg into each indentation.  Lightly sprinkle the eggs with hot smoked paprika. Put the lid on again and cook gently for about 10 minutes. If you want your eggs runny cook it for about 5 minutes. Always with the lid on.  Take off the heat, remove the lid and leave for 5 minutes.  Serve with crispy bread and salad.

Best eaten on Sheila and Jack’s terrace about 21.30 with a bottle of rough musto from Pampaniera! I dare you not to finish it.

Viral Antidote 1 Cheesy sodabread/veg&bean soup

Of course there is no such thing as a viral antidote! Only social isolation will do that. I am doing it already.  But I thought maybe a few nice recipes from my kitchen might not go amiss.  It will be part of my self-management strategy but also might fire ideas for lunch, or dinner.  Peter certainly thought so and asked for the recipe.  So here it is.

Soda bread is a quick bread to make and a quick bread to cook. It is not yeasted but relies on bicarbonate of soda to make it rise.  It only takes 5 minutes to rise and 25 minutes to bake. We had soup and bread on the table in 30 minutes today.

You can add loads of variations to it, such as olives, caramelised onions (or, for ease, snipped spring onions), cheese, herbs.

The sodabread doesn’t keep well, which is a great excuse to eat it all in one day.  You could halve the quantities and make sodabread scones instea.


450g plain while flour, or 300 g wholewheat plain flour (not bread flour) and 150g plain white flour

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

600ml sour milk, buttermilk or yogurt and milk mixed (to make sour milk, squeeze lemon juice into the milk – it will curdle slightly)


Pre-heat the oven to 475 or Gas 9.  Put all the dry ingredients into a big bowl and mix them thoroughly. You can add other ingredients at this point, if you wish. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk.  Stir the ingredients together from the centre to the outside until all are combined. Do this gently.  When it is combined, turn onto a floured surface.  Don’t knead it, just gently shape it into a round that’s about 3cm deep.  Cut a cross across the top.  Place onto  some baking parchment on a flat baking tray and into the oven she goes for about 25 minutes.  when its done you should be able to pick it up and when you knock the base it should be crisp and sound hollow.  Cool on a wire rack.


Vegetable and bean soup

Use whatever vegetables you like but chop them all into equal sized chunks.  Today I used onion, garlic, carrot, celery, butternut squash and red pepper.  Sweat in a little olive oil, plus a bay leaf in a deep saucepan.  Here’s a tip.  Season at this stage and add about half a cup of water. Clamp on the lid and simmer for 5 minutes. This reduces the amount of oil or butter you would have used. Then add 250ml passata or chopped tinned tomatoes and a drained tin of cannelini beans.  Taste.  Add more seasoning and cook till all the vegetables are tender but not mushy.

Four extra tips

  • use gremolata for your seasoning – use link for the method  I always have a jar beside the hob. It’s easy to make
  • add a couple of tablespoons of Brown’s mushroom ketchup for a deep savoury hit (Tesco and Waitrose stock it)
  • when you serve dollop on a spoonful of parsley and walnut pesto. There is usually some in our fridge – or some other sort of pesto
  • grate some cheese on top of your sodabread before you put it in the oven