Eggs Poached in South Indian Purgatory


My friend Connie does not like a runny egg. She's adamant about avoiding raw egg yolks (she would hate the Sukiyaki my boss made me that one time) but isn't happy about viewing over-easy or soft-boiled eggs either - and my Instagram/Facebook feeds are FULL of them.

I smile to myself when I post those pics as I rarely make it to a count of ten under my breath before she's commenting about the evils of the golden yellow orbs I display with pride. She's likely to blow a complete gasket as this post tags and "outs" her specifically as a runny-yolk hater. She will simply have to forgive me - and she's a good enough friend that I'm not too worried.

So I'm sorry in advance, Connie - this recipe specifically highlights an egg gently poached in a warmly-spiced tomato sauce. Whites are set, but yolks should be warm and RUNNY, Connie. Though I have to say, I'd eat this fragrant tomato sauce with a fully hard-boiled egg without thinking twice. You could do that, Connie - you could boil your eggs, slice them in half, and nestle them lovingly into this tomato sauce and we could still be friends.

Okay, enough teasing of my fantastic friend Connie, who is an excellent cook and baker. She knows I'd eat anything she set in front of me and lick the spoon clean.

Traditionally, shakshouka (or "shakshuka" - however you feel like spelling it) is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions, often spiced with cumin. It is believed to be of Tunisian origin and is popular among many ethnic groups in the Middle East and North Africa (thanks, Wikipedia!). But you can find translations of this dish in nearly every cuisine if you look hard enough.

When I ran across the "Eggs Poached in South Indian Purgatory" recipe in Melissa Clark's Dinner: Changing the Game Plan Cookbook, I immediately thought "shakshuka for dinner tonight!" I love Melissa's food and this is hands down one of my favorite new cookbook acquisitions this year (GET IT NOW). This recipe is a prime example of how easily approachable she makes ingredients that you might not be too familiar with.

Like traditional shakshuka, tomatoes, onions and cumin all make an appearance, but they make a little room for those warm South Indian spices and ingredients I've grown to love: ginger, garam masala and sweet paprika.

I love this dish for the following reasons:

  1. The sauce will keep in the fridge for at least a week
  2. Because I'm a singleton and the sauce keeps well, I can cook INDIVIDUAL PORTIONS
  3. It's fantastic served with toasted bread, but also try it with basmati rice or a dollop of yogurt like Melissa suggests - versatility!
  4. This is the absolute easiest way to poach an egg and look like a hero

I made this sauce on a Sunday and enjoyed individual portions for breakfast every day the following week by simply reheating a bit of sauce in a small skillet and poaching a single egg in it. But you can save yourself having to clean a skillet by placing the sauce and an egg in a bowl, directly from the fridge and into the microwave for one minute. If I'm lyin' I'm dyin'.

totally an egg hanging out under that lid ...

totally an egg hanging out under that lid ...

If you're brave enough, make it following Melissa's directions below - the molten yellow egg yolk makes an already fantastic tomato sauce even more luscious. Geez, I'm suddenly starving! 

Eggs Poached in South Indian Purgatory

From Dinner: Changing the Game Cookbook

Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4-6

For The Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced (or grated with microplane)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro stems (yes - stems!)

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

1 fresh red or green hot chile (any kind you've got), seeded and finely chopped

2 1/2 teaspoons garam masala

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes with their juices

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Eggs

6 large eggs

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves


  1. Prepare the eggs the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cilantro stems, ginger, and chile; cook for 2 minutes. Then stir in the garam masala, cumin, and paprika, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
  2. Pour the tomatoes into the skillet, and season with salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes break down and the mixture is thick and saucy, about 20 minutes (if the pan seems dry, add a tablespoon or two of water). *If you plan to use the sauce to make individual servings, at this point you can cool the sauce and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
  3. Add the eggs: Gently crack the eggs onto the sauce, spacing them out a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the skillet and cook until the eggs are opaque but the yolks are still runny, 3 to 5 minutes. Garnish with the cilantro leaves before serving.

*Want to keep this all to yourself (you're terrible, but I get you)? Make individual servings with one (or two) eggs at a time by simply re-heating a cup or so of sauce in a skillet, add the egg(s) and cover. Of course you can make the entire dish and reheat it, but the yolks will continue to cook every time you reheat and you'll lose that liquid gold goodness. This tip is for you, Connie :)