I made this shakshuka khachapuri for brunch on a weekend. It was a kitchen experiment more than anything else, but it turned out to be a pretty good one. It combines two great food traditions – the wildly popular shakshuka of Israel and the Middle East, and khachapuri, the lesser known but increasingly popular Georgian bread boat – usually filled with dip-able cheese but in this case filled with dip-able shakshuka.
Shakshuka makes for a delicious breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. The flavour infused mix of sweet tomato, red pepper, aromatics and spices is perfect for munching with bread – so what better way to level up shakshuka than by baking it directly in a Georgian khachapuri bread boat?
How terribly dull breakfast must have been before the wonderfully exotic-sounding shakshuka entered our national vocabulary. – The Guardian, How to Make the Perfect Shakshuka
The food of Georgia is the latest world food culture to begin the ascent into the mainstream – a lot of new Georgian cookbooks are being published and there’s also the classic The Georgian Feast by Darra Goldstein (originally published in 93 – well ahead of the curve).
It’s easy to see why Georgian food is entering the spotlight – timeless flavours, evocative combinations, and the elemental connection to place, family, and people represented by the near-mystical allure of the supra, the traditional Georgian feasting table. It’s enough to make the food of Georgia feel nostalgic, even if you’ve never tried it.
“Every Georgian dish is a poem.”—Alexander Pushkin. According to Georgian legend, God took a supper break while creating the world. He became so involved with his meal that he inadvertently tripped over the high peaks of the Caucasus, spilling his food onto the land below. – Darra Goldstein, The Georgian Feast
I got the idea to combine these two dishes because I’d been seeing a lot of references to khachapuri. According to the Wikipedia definition, khachapuri “is leavened and allowed to rise and is shaped in various ways, usually with cheese in the middle and a crust which is ripped off and used to dip in the cheese.” I figured shakshuka is also very dip-able so it would be a perfect match.
Making the dough
I used my go-to basic dough recipe that I use for everything from flatbreads like naan and pizza to full on loaves of bread. I’ve been using it for years and it’s as close to foolproof as bread gets. It involves quickly hand kneading the dough but the technique is simple and easy to master.
Quick hand kneading tutorial: Fold the dough over itself along the middle, flatten it down firmly with the heel of your hand as shown in the picture below, turn it a quarter turn, and then flatten it down again. Repeat this process until the dough is uniform and smooth like the picture below. Dust with a bit more flour if it sticks to your palm or fingers too much. You can also use an electric stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.
The quantity of dough I made makes 4 very large and thick dough boats but could also be stretched to make 6 “thin crust” style boats. The bottom can be quite thing as long as the edges are high enough to make a barrier and hold in the shakshuka.
Speaking of pizza, if you’re in a rush or just don’t want to get involved with dough making then you can always use store bought pre-made fresh pizza dough.
Blistering the red pepper
While the dough rests, start on the shakshuka. I like to fire roast the peppers before chopping and add them to the pan. It imparts a rich smoky flavour that adds complexity. If you’re in a rush this step is optional but I highly recommend taking the time to do it if you can.
The goal is to blister the peppers so a few black patches appear. Just enough for flavour. If you don’t have a gas range, this can also be achieved on an electric range or under an oven broiler. If using a broiler be sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
Why Tomato paste
I almost always add tomato paste to preparations that call for tomato. Tomato paste is concentrated tomato, so it adds a robust level of deep umami flavour, which adds depth and complexity to dishes for very little extra time or effort. It’s an indispensable ingredient in my kitchen.
In this case I’m using Bomba Tomato Paste, which I discovered since moving to the Netherlands and has become my new favourite. It’s a slow cooked mix of 3x concentrated tomato puree, red wine, carrot, celery, onion, grape must, herbs, spices, salt, and raw cane sugar. It adds a lot of extra flavour and depth to my dishes. It’s available in the US on Amazon through the link above or if you’re in the Netherlands, then you can find it at your local Albert Heijn. It’s also at Waitrose if you’re in the UK.
If you can’t find Bomba where you are then any regular tomato paste will do. An added tip if you’re new to the tomato paste game: it comes in a lot of different formats like little cans, jars and squeeze bottles. Unlike cans and jars, the squeeze formats will last a very long time in the fridge without spoiling.
What type of pan should you use?
I recommend a cast iron pan for this type of preparation. I’m using a Le Creuset frying pan with a wooden handle but any cast iron skillet will do. Of course if you don’t have a cast iron pan, stainless steel or non-stick will also do.
Once you’ve made the shakshuka, set it aside to cool and begin shaping the dough boats directly on your parchment lined pan since they will be difficult to move afterwards. I shaped the dough boats by spreading the dough out flat like naan, then using my fingers to roll up the edges and pinch them at the top and bottom. It took a little finesse but it wasn’t super challenging.
After the boats have been filled with the shakshuka, I let them rest for about 20-30 minutes so they could continue proofing and puff up a bit more. The eggs go in at the very last moment before it all goes in the oven or otherwise they may seep through and spill out.
Before putting them in the oven I did a light eggwash on the edges and sprinkled with a mix of sesame seeds and the Mediterranean herb mix I used in the shakshuka. Finally I cracked the eggs in and popped the tray into the oven.
I baked for around 50 minutes. The baking needs to be enough to brown the bread but not so much that the eggs get too hard. It’s a tricky balance to strike so I suggest keeping an eye on the oven while they’re baking from around the 35 minute mark – check on them every 5 minutes or so (ideally without opening the oven).
Once the shakshuka came out of the oven, I sprinkled with crumbled sheep milk feta and diced parsley.
Analyzing The Results
As I mentioned above, this was a kitchen experiment. I combined two different preparations to make something new and different. Since I couldn’t find anything similar online to use as a roadmap, I mostly improvised when it came to the proportions, for example of dough to filling. The result was good. It was tasty and eye catching – quite a nice option to serve to guests for brunch since it looks really impressive.
Although I only made this shakshuka khachapuri once, I have made the dough countless time and different variations of shakshuka many times as well. I feel comfortable enough recommending this to others to try this recipe but with one caveat – I felt the dough to filling ratio could have been better. It turned out less rip-and-dip and more slice-and-snack – still good, just not exactly what I had in mind.
Below I’ve included some thoughts on how the filling to dough ratio could be tweaked on future iterations.
Improving the dough to filling ratio
There are a two options for improving the dough to filling ratio.
Stretching the dough: The dough recipe I provide makes 4 khachapuri dough boats. Using the same recipe to make 6 or more dough boats could improve the filling to dough ratio, provided the thinner dough boats are strong enough to stand up to the filling that seems to threaten to spill out, especially with the addition of the cracked egg. Shakshuka acts very differently as a filling than cubed cheese, but it’s possible that making the dough boats bigger and folding the edges over the filling (instead of rolling them into barriers) could seal it in long enough for the bread and egg to begin cooking and solidifying.
Using a different dough: Food52 suggests that khachapuri should be made using an enriched dough. This is contrary to what I would have expected, which was to use a lower hydration and more robust dough that could stand up to the stewy shakshuka filling.
Ultimately the conclusion is that I will have to make this recipe again and figure out how to perfect it because it’s too good a combination to pass up. In the meantime it’s still a really tasty recipe to try – maybe as your own kitchen experiment or even served alongside a pan of more shakshuka for dipping. Either way you can be sure that when I try this again, I’ll post my results here. If you happen to make this recipe or something similar I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Until next time,
- 4 cups flour + more for dusting
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 tsp Herbamare seasoning salt or 1/2 tsp regular salt
- 1 egg for eggwash (optional)
- Sprinkle of sesame seeds and Mediterranean herbs on crust (optional)
- 6 or so plum sized tomatoes
- 4 medium sized sweet red peppers + 1 green chili pepper (optional)
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or mashed
- Olive oil
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1–2 tsp seasoning salt or 1/2 tsp regular salt
- 1.5 tsp Mediterranean herb blend (equal parts dried oregano, mint and rosemary)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese for topping
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley for topping
Preheat oven to 200 C / 350 F.
Make the dough. Add the yeast and water to a large mixing bowl and wait until the yeast blooms i.e. foams up. In another bowl combine the flour and salt. Once the yeast has bloomed, add the flour mixture and use a spoon or fork to roughly mix it until it’s mostly incorporated. Once incorporated begin to knead it with your hands until it’s completely incorporated and has a smooth surface. Set aside to rest while making the shakshuka.
Make the shakshuka Fire roast the red pepper over a gas range, electric range, or oven broiler. Set aside to cool while you finely dice the onion, tomato and garlic. Once they are cool enough, also dice the peppers into small pieces. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat and then add the onion and garlic. Once the tomatoes have softened, add the tomato and peppers. Cook for 2-3 more minutes until incorporated and then add the tomato paste and spices. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. If the mix is too dry, you can add a few tbsp of water. it should be the thickness of a thick stew.
Shape the dough. Once you’ve made the shakshuka, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for another 30 seconds or so. Use a sharp knife to cut it into 4 roughly equal pieces and then turn those pieces onto a parchment paper lined baking tray. Use your fingers to spread each piece out into a naan-like shape, and then curl the outer edges inwards to create the characteristic walled shape, pinching the dough together at the top and bottom to seal it. Let the boats proof for 20-30 minutes before baking.
Fill the khachapuri boats. Let the shakshuka cool for a few minutes and then use a spoon to scoop it into the khachapuri dough boats, leaving a small indent in the center of each one for an egg. At this point you can apply the eggwash and sprinkle the seasoning if you’re doing that. Finally, crack an egg into each boat and then quickly put in the preheated oven. Bake at 200 C / 375 F on a lower oven rack for 40-50 minutes or until the dough is golden browned and the eggs are set. Remove from oven, top with feta and parsley, and serve while still hot.
The dough and shakshuka can be made ahead and stored in the fridge overnight.