The cuisine of Tunisia, is a blend of Mediterranean and desert dweller's culinary traditions. Its distinctive spicy fieriness comes from neighboring Mediterranean countries and the many civilizations who have ruled Tunisian land: Phoenician, Roman, Arab, Turkish, French, and the native Berber people. Many of the cooking styles and utensils began to take shape when the ancient tribes were nomads. Nomadic people were limited in their cooking by what locally made pots and pans they could carry with them. A tagine is really the name of a conical-lidded pot, although today the same word is applied to what is cooked in it.Like all countries in the Mediterranean basin, Tunisia offers a "sun cuisine," based mainly on olive oil, spices, tomatoes, seafood (a wide range of fish) and meat from rearing (lamb).Unlike other North African cuisine, Tunisian food is quite spicy. A popular condiment and ingredient which is used extensively Tunisian cooking, Harissa is a hot red pepper sauce made of red chili peppers and garlic, flavored with coriander, cumin, olive oil and often tomatoes. There is an old wives' tale that says a husband can judge his wife's affections by the amount of hot peppers she uses when preparing his food. If the food becomes bland then a man may believe that his wife no longer loves him. However when the food is prepared for guests the hot peppers are often toned down to suit the possibly more delicate palate of the visitor. Like Harissa or chili peppers, the tomato is also an ingredient which cannot be separated from the cuisine of Tunisia. Tuna, eggs, olives and various varieties of pasta, cereals, herbs and spices are also ingredients which are featured prominently in Tunisian cooking.
This dish, with many variations, is a popular breakfast in North Africa, especially in Algeria and Tunisia. Most recipes include the eggs, but they can actually be left out if you like. Jewish immigrants from the Maghreb have made this a popular breakfast dish in Israel.
Ingredients:3 tablespoons olive oil,
1-2 tbsp of Paprika,
1 thinly sliced Onion,
2 to 3 cloves minced Garlic,
3 Tomatoes- peeled, seeded and diced,
2 to 3 Green and red bell peppers,
1 cup of Water,
4 Eggs (optional),
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Stir in the paprika and cook slightly to color the oil, about 10 to 15 seconds. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent and wilted but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to reduce down a little bit. Add the peppers, water and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add more water as needed to keep it from drying out.
Using a spoon, form four small indentations in the simmering peppers to hold the eggs. One by one, crack the eggs into a small bowl and slip each from the bowl into an indentation. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until eggs are cooked through.Serve with crusty bread, pita or rice.
Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seed to the hot oil for about 15 seconds before you add the paprika. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground coriander along with the onions.
For a little spice, sauté 1 tablespoon of Harissa paste or a minced Chile pepper with the onions.
Sometimes fresh shrimp or a spicy lamb sausage called merguez is added to the simmering peppers along with the eggs.
Add 1 small, diced eggplant along with the peppers.
Add 1 potato, cut in a small dice, along with the peppers.
Sprinkle the top of the cooked dish with chopped parsley or cilantro.Add a few olives and capers and eliminate the eggs. Chill and serve garnished with hard-boiled eggs or tuna.
Instead of adding the eggs to the pan, one can divide the tomato pepper sauce into 4 ramekins and top them with 1 egg each and bake in a preheated oven at 190 C until the eggs are cooked.