Bringing some chaos to the kitchen

North African Shakshuka is a rich and vibrant way to use up some eggs

A lot of my life has been chaotic.

I’m used to personal catastrophes and family emergencies being a regular feature of my life. I learned the tools to survive in it, which served me then, but an unfortunate side effect of that is my difficulty functioning outside of it. I had become addicted to chaos.

Whenever I lived in its absence for too long, I would create my own compulsively, and the fallout from those choices provided me with the turmoil my brain was craving to return to normalcy. Over the years that pattern chipped away at my credibility, my relationships, my self-image, and ultimately left me broken.

Many years later, now my life is stable. More than stable — it is a comfortable, predictable routine of my own design. It is wholesome, and has meaning, and I am fully invested in it. But the instinct for drama remains in the recesses of my mind, and demands to be placated lest the internal pressure builds past the point of no return.

The trick is to do so constructively, or at least benignly.

I seek out tasks with deadlines so I may feel the stress of procrastination, I volunteer for roles I don’t believe I’m qualified for so when I do well, I feel the rush of an imposter who got away with it, and I write very personal confessions like these to feel the drama of laying my heart bare for strangers.

Another important tool for my continued well-being is novelty. I’m always looking for my next fleeting obsession, and food is an excellent way to satisfy this urge.

Lately my culinary daydreams have all been heavily spiced and far away from here. I discovered this North African dish while I was searching for a way to use up some eggs. This heady dish is rich and vibrant, perfect for when you need to spice things up.



2 tablespoons olive oil

6 large tomatoes — roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic — minced

1 whole small yellow onion — sliced thinly

1 whole red bell pepper — sliced thinly

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons harissa powder

¼ cup tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley — plus some for garnish

Crumbled goat cheese or feta (measure with your heart)

7 eggs

1 can chickpeas


In a large, flat saucepan with a lid, cook the onions and garlic in oil until the onions are soft and sweet.

Add in your tomato paste, powdered spices, and salt and cook for another couple minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning.

Crush the tomatoes in your hands over the skillet as you add them.

Toss in the sliced bell pepper and assess the pan: If the tomatoes were very juicy, you might not need to add any water. But if the pan isn’t soupy at this point, you’ll need to add about ½ cup water.

Cook over high heat, stirring very often, until the tomatoes have disintegrated and there is very little liquid in the bottom of the pan.

Turn the heat down to medium and add your fresh herbs and strained and rinsed chickpeas. Stir to combine.

Use a spoon to create little wells in the mixture for your eggs to poach in.

Crack the eggs directly into the wells and do not disturb.

Sprinkle on your crumbled goat cheese.

Cook on medium heat until you can see the bottom of the eggs have turned white, then turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for another couple minutes, until the eggs have reached your preferred doneness. Jiggle the pan and watch the eggs to test them.

Top with more goat cheese and herbs and serve with toasted bread.