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The love child of Middle Eastern shakshuka and good old Italian fat-bomb, Eggplant Parmigiana. But healthier, obvs. PS This MUST be served with garlic bread

The love child of Middle Eastern shakshuka and good old Italian fat-bomb, Eggplant Parm. But healthier, obvs. PS This MUST be served with garlic bread.

The love child of Middle Eastern shakshuka and good old Italian fat-bomb, Eggplant Parmigiana. But healthier, obvs. PS This MUST be served with garlic breadWhat is your first proper food memory? Mine is not the vague memory of being fed by my mother from a melamine plate decorated with fairytale mushrooms and fairies. Nor is it when I theatrically upended a full bowl of spaghetti onto my head. In a restaurant (I had wanted mashed potatoes). My first real food memory is from my grandparent’s garden.

I remember it deeply – almost viscerally – because of the smell: damp red earth steaming in the sudden sun after a rain shower. I must have been about two or three, and we had gone into the orderly mid-summer garden, with its even rows of towering, waving sweetcorn, sprawling scrolls of watermelon vines and squashes, climbing beans of purple, green and cream, to pluck just-ripe tomatoes for our dinner.

My Mimi taught me not to yank the warm, slightly prickly fruit from the plant, but to pinch above where it joins the vine so as to bring the aroma of the plant into the house. I learned from an early age that the aroma that we all love about tomatoes – the earthy, herbaceous, raw green notes prized as a scent in perfume making – is from the stem itself. The humble stem. I learned by her side that tomatoes are best just picked and eaten sliced with a dime store knife, served on a plain china plate, adorned with only a pinch of salt. Later, much later, I elaborated this to a dribble of best olive oil. I think she might have used olive oil for earaches only. This was in Tennessee, after all.

The love child of Middle Eastern shakshuka and good old Italian fat-bomb, Eggplant Parmigiana. But healthier, obvs. PS This MUST be served with garlic breadI realise now that in those early years of spending play time in her summer garden and eating meals prepared with little but what she and my grandfather grew and raised (in the summer at least), she sowed the seeds of a lifelong affinity for good food. Real food. And today I wish to pass on my own “rules” for cooking, sharing and eating. They may be obvious, but I hope you think they are worth passing on nonetheless.

5 Food Thoughts

Eat with as many senses as possible. Eat with your lips, your tongue and your teeth of course – feel the food’s roughness or smoothness, how it crunches or squidges; savour the layers of taste in the simplest and most complex of foods. Eat also with your eyes and ears. Notice the curves of the peach; listen to the suck of it as you bite into its yielding flesh, trying not to fire juice everywhere. Slowing down just a little to mind the details is the best way to really appreciate that food nourishes more than just our physical self.

Plant a garden. Or if not a garden, a window box or pots. Sprouting seeds is great too. It is deeply satisfying, and not a little thrilling, to eat what you have nurtured and grown. If you worry about not being green-thumbed, why not tutor yourself about foraging and get out in each season to harvest what nature gives us for free? Despite my upbringing I am not particularly green-fingered, but I do manage to keep a respectable crop of kale and chard year-round. Anything else that manages to grow under my watch is more luck than anything else. But it makes me enormously happy to at least try.

Eat seasonally. One of the big downsides of high-tech food manufacturing is the loss of growing seasons. I’m fairly sure that the absence of seasonal crops (strawberries in November??) makes us appreciate our food less and grumble about it more. Not only do we tend to take for granted that we can get asparagus any time we wish (a crop that normally has a short growing window), but we complain food “doesn’t taste like it used to”. Some young people may never know what a just-picked, sun-ripened tomato tastes like. That’s just sad.The love child of Middle Eastern shakshuka and good old Italian fat-bomb, Eggplant Parmigiana. But healthier, obvs. PS This MUST be served with garlic bread

Not only is it usually healthier to eat seasonally and locally, it is inspiring too. Most of what I make here on food to glow is influenced by what I am growing or what others nearby can grow. Not always, but mostly.

Cook together. This isn’t always possible, or desirable, but when we can it’s a potentially very wonderful thing. So much of our time with the young people in our lives is devoted to ferrying them around, monitoring their screen-time, checking their homework. Inviting them into the kitchen to help prepare and serve food is a vital lifeskill that again, like seasonal eating, may be going the way of dinosaurs and DVDs. Once they are grown up, it may be too late. Some of my best memories with my daughter Rachel are of her pitching in on the more mundane kitchen tasks: assembling and weighing ingredients, standing on a chair and stirring a pot (possibly illegal now), and setting the table.

Cooking with a spouse or friend is also a wonderful way to share some quality time. And with these cooking companions, you can crack open a bottle of wine!

Eat together. Want to know more about that cute girl who waved at your son at pick-up time? Share mealtimes together. Seriously, people that I see through my work quite often remark that the best and most revealing conversations with their kids happen at the dinner table. And not only that, but manners and mood improve. It’s like saying to everyone that you value them.

It is well worth making an effort to gather round the table at least a few times a week. Even now that Rachel is 20 and very much her own person, when she is home from uni she pretty much insists that we eat together. She actually gets grumpy if we don’t.

Eating together as a family or as a group of flatmates reinforces the pleasure and value of eating good food. Actually, even a takeaway pizza eaten with manners, napkins and a thrown-together salad can be a nourishing experience. Been there. Done that!

Those are the basics for me. Of course I can be a slob and not pay attention to most of that, but mostly it is part and parcel of who I am these days.

Do you have and food thoughts of your own you would like to share? Don’t be shy. We can all learn from each other.

The love child of Middle Eastern shakshuka and good old Italian fat-bomb, Eggplant Parmigiana. But healthier, obvs. PS This MUST be served with garlic bread

Eggplant Parmigiana Shakshuka

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
  • Print

The love child of Middle Eastern shakshuka and good old Italian fat-bomb, Eggplant Parm. But healthier, obvs. PS This MUST be served with garlic bread. 😉 xx

4 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for serving)

2 medium eggplants/aubergines, sliced in rounds *about* 1.5 cm thick

1 red onion, peeled and diced

1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled, bashed and minced

Handful oregano leaves (or you could use basil)

350g ripe tomatoes, chopped (use the juice too)

250g tinned/carton tomatoes

Two handfuls of fresh spinach leaves, optional

1 tbsp good balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste

A drizzle of honey or good pinch of sugar – as needed to balance the flavours

150-200g ricotta cheese

3-4 organic eggs (more if there’s room in the pan or you are using yolks only)

50g hard Italian cheese (Parmesan and the other main cheeses typically used are made with calf’s rennet so not suitable for vegetarians), optional

Extra oregano + basil for serving


1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/400F.

2. Slick the eggplant slices with some of the oil and place on trays. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until soft and lightly golden in patches. Remove from the oven to cool a bit then cut up into smaller pieces.

3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil and add the onions. Saute on a low, just barely murmuring heat until softened – about five minutes. Add the peppers, garlic and oregano and slightly increase the flame. Cook until softened then add the tomatoes. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then add the balsamic vinegar. The love child of Middle Eastern shakshuka and good old Italian fat-bomb, Eggplant Parmigiana. But healthier, obvs. PS This MUST be served with garlic bread

4. Transfer the sauce to a food processor or blender (I use my wonderful, wouldn’t-be-without-it Optimum 9400 Froothie power blender) and pulse until you have a slightly textured but mainly smooth sauce. Taste and adjust with salt, pepper and honey/sugar if you like.

5. Add the cooked eggplant and spinach to the saute pan, pour in the sauce and dot on most of the ricotta cheese, stirring just to amalgamate. Get the sauce bubbling then make four indentations and add each egg. TIP: I crack eggs into individual ramekins or shallow teacups then slide each in. Top with the remaining ricotta cheese and sprinkle over the hard grated cheese. Cover with a lid or foil and cook for up to eight minutes – or until the egg is done to your liking. I read somewhere to separate the yolk from the white, mixing the white into the sauce to thicken it and just adding the yolk to the top. That kind of makes sense and I might do that next time to give a more even cooking to the eggs: the yolk cooks quicker than the white.

6. Serve immediately with mandatory garlic bread. Enjoy!

Note: suitable for a soft food diet if the eggplants is blended into the sauce, or the skin removed from the eggplant pieces.

I have other shakshuka recipes (sauce and eggs), plus a lower fat eggplant parmigiana: Easy Shakshuka, Gardener’s Green Shakshuka (no tomatoes), Sichaun-style Eggs In Purgatory.


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39 thoughts on “Eggplant Parmigiana Shakshuka + First Food Memories and 5 Food Thoughts

  1. I don’t like it – I love it! I love your food thoughts, and concur with them. This is the most unlikely marriage of two recipes I’ve ever seen, but it should be delicious nonetheless. I am just curious about your shakshuka recipes in general; how did you get into shakshuka to begin with?

    1. Thanks so much. That’s really sweet of you. You know, I’m not really sure. I think I read about it in Yotam Ottolenghi’s first book ages ago and knew I had to make it. I didn’t make his version (I can never leave even an expert’s recipe alone!). Since then I have eaten it in cafes but it is never they way I like it. I tinker with different versions all of the time. I think I must have had about 10 different versions. With globe artichokes is gorgeous. 🙂

      1. Thank you for responding! I was simply surprised because it is so specifically Sephardic, and not many people even know what it is, and you seem to be very creative with it. It’s just great to see those cross-cultural culinary influences!

  2. karenpavone says:

    What a great combination! I’m putting this in my “recipe bucket list.” 😉

    1. I am honoured, Karen. Thank you. Let me now if you make it?

  3. elliebleu says:

    I’ve never added eggplant to Shakshuka. I can’t wait to give this one a try. 🙂

    1. Eggplant is ALWAYS a good call, Ellie 🙂

  4. Natalie says:

    Its look super yummy!

    1. thanks so much, Natalie 🙂

  5. I loved reading about your earliest food memory. Feeling joyful that you spent time with your grandparents xx

    1. We both have had such wonderful food beginnings in life, haven’t we, Liz? I love how your roots have suffused your posts and have now culminated in a book. 🙂

  6. superfitbabe says:

    Eggplants are delicious! And what a beautiful memory. Cooking with fresh food must bring so much joy to you and your family!

    1. I am pretty lucky that my family all love the same foods, Cassie. It is indeed joyful to cook with fresh foods. I am just getting ready to post something pretty much made directly from my garden, drizzled with homemade ranch dressing. 🙂

  7. Andy Anderson says:

    Firstly this is super delicious and secondly those are beautiful words about Mimi’s influence on your childhood food memories – thanks Mimi, you did a great job!!!!

    1. You say the sweetest things. I’m glad I married you. 🙂

  8. ladyredspecs says:

    Love your take on Shakshuka. I was a student nurse in the early 1970s. I loved the middnight dinners when working nightshift because a dish called “gypsy stew” was on the menu a couple of times a week. It never appeared during the day and was an aberration on the institutional menu of bland offerings. It was shakshuka, with eggplants. I’ve been replicating those delicious flavours ever since. I’ll definitely try your version soon, thanks Kellie

    1. I think I have heard of gypsy stew but had no idea that it was really a type of shakshuka. Thanks Sandra for sharing your own encounter with this very flexible and delicious dish. I think all my husband got on his hospital night shifts was buttered toast!

  9. what a beautiful post… and a beautiful dish. I’m thinking this may be made this weekend. For me, it’s anything that mum makes at her home that takes me back but particularly the chopped chicken liver on a Friday night! oh yes!

    1. Oh Dom, that’s one food I have never got on with! My husband used to go out with my mum to a Spanish restaurant that did a good liver dish as none of the rest of us liked it. But it seems like both you and my Andrew have lovely family memories of it. 🙂 And thank you for the kind words. 🙂

  10. LauraJane says:

    This looks divine! I love a well done Shakshuka, it’s such a comforting dish!

    1. Thanks so much Laura Jane

  11. EA Stewart says:

    Such a lovely post Kellie! And, delicious recipe too 🙂 This summer my daughter and I have been having a lot of fun, cooking dinners together. She starts back to school next week, and no doubt the high-school homework will put cooking on hold for awhile, but, still, it’s been lovely spending this time and making new memories with her. I hope you’re doing well! xoxo

    1. Ah thank you lovely lady. 🙂 I can imagine you and your daughter have whipped up some amazing feasts and fun snacks and had a giggly fun time doing so. It is so great to know that such memories have been made for both of you. And of course all of your wonderful travels that you enjoy with your family. You guys have some fantastic holidays!

  12. What a lovely post and really terrific looking recipe. Thanks for this!

    1. I’m really glad you like it, Christina. 🙂

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Gosh that is seriously stunning! I’m a recent convert to the wonderful world of Shakshuka. Such a simple yet tasty dish 🙂

  14. Well this post is definitely visually appealing to make me salivate even on a full stomach! Loved reading about your first food memory! Mine is probably when I was 3 or 4 maybe during Ganpati fetsival of my mum preparing an elaborate five course meal and prasad ..ummmm

  15. stateeats says:

    Have been waiting for this one since I saw it on your Insta feed – CANNOT wait to try! -Kat

    1. Yay!! Let me know how you like it, Kat. Thanks for your enthusiasm. Makes me smile! 🙂

  16. nadiashealthykitchen says:

    That’s such a sweet first memory to have! And at 2 or 3 years old!?

    I love Shakshuka, and even though I grew up in the Middle East the first time I actually tried it was here in the UK! Great idea to add aubergine to make it even more delicious 😀

  17. Looks so delicious!

  18. faurea66 says:

    This looks fantastic!!

  19. Yum! I love Shakshuka! Can’t wait to try this!

  20. I can’t even describe how much I want to dive into that saucepan right now!! Thanks for adding to my Weekend Brunch Club linky too!

  21. Susan Clay says:

    I just came across your recipe looking for another good eggplant parmigiana recipe. We are very lucky to have a garden in Portugal with loads of fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and lovely shiny aubergines. This will be on the menu this weekend. My OH loves eggs of any sort so am pretty sure he will enjoy this one. My adult children live across the water and are both into cooking, which is a great joy for me. We share recipes and tips all the time, which is not as good as sitting at the dinner table but still a loving experience.

    1. kellie anderson says:

      Your situation sounds heavenly, Susan! I’m so glad that you like the sound of it. The recipe is very flexible, and ripe for making your own. And reading about how your family connects over the miles by exchanging foodie tips, well it’s put a huge smile on my face. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave this lovely comment. I do hope you’ll come back again 🙂

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