I’m always on the lookout for meals I can make from pantry staples. No matter how prepared I think I am, there are inevitably nights when my fridge is devoid of any produce or leftovers, and even a good fridge dive won’t result in anything I want to call dinner. The pizza delivery looks especially friendly and enticing on speed dial.
This curried coconut lentil shakshuka has become one of my new go-to's for these nights. It checks important boxes:
1. It requires one pan.
2. It needs minimal hands-on time.
3. It calls for one fridge ingredient (eggs).
4. It is warming and nourishing.
It’s the type of dinner I feel good about feeding myself and my family. My kids appreciate this kind of dinner, too, when the options are limited—especially with warm naan or flatbread to mop up the sauce. I created this dish after spotting a recipe in Milk Street magazine for curried braised eggs. The eggs are poached in a tomato sauce made rich and creamy by coconut milk. It’s an Indian-inspired play on shakshuka, the Tunisian-Israeli dish of poached eggs in spicy tomato sauce that’s on the menus of hip diners and brunch spots everywhere.
The flavors and ease of preparation of the curried braised eggs reminded me of two other recipes that make smart use of pantry ingredients: Ina Garten’s Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes from Barefoot Contessa at Home and Julia Turshen’s Curried Lentils with Coconut Milk from Small Victories (which Ali Stafford wrote about here). So I did what I love to do when cooking: combined my favorite elements from all three recipes to come up with my own dish. The sauce is built from quick-cooking red lentils, canned tomatoes, creamy coconut milk, and fragrant curry powder—four ingredients I always have in my pantry. Red lentils and coconut milk make this shakshuka more filling than most versions, and the curry powder lends warmth and complexity. And while I know I’m taking some liberties by calling this shakshuka, the word shakshuka means “all mixed up” in Arabic, so I think the name fits my recipe mish-mash very well.
Notes and Tips
Eggs: If you’ve made shakshuka, you know that poaching eggs in the sauce isn’t difficult, yet it can be a little tricky to get fully cooked whites (which take longer to cook than the yolks) and still-runny yolks. For best results, start with room temperature eggs. (Cold eggs lower the temperature of the sauce and cook unevenly.) If you forget to set the eggs out on the counter, submerge them in warm water for a few minutes to take off the chill. Lastly, use your oven versus a covered pan on the stovetop for poaching: the even heat of the oven is the easiest way to get evenly cooked eggs. Above all, don’t worry if your eggs aren’t perfectly poached. When I get distracted and overcook my eggs, I treat them like hard-boiled ones, chop them up, and stir them into the sauce.
Curry powder: Since this shakshuka is solely spiced with curry powder, make sure it’s fresh and fragrant. Get a new bottle in the new year if yours is stale. I like using a salt-free mild or Maharajah-style so I can control the salt and heat of the dish.
Tomatoes: Unless it’s peak tomato season, turn to good quality canned whole tomatoes, like San Marzano, or boxed tomatoes like Pomi brand chopped tomatoes. When using whole tomatoes, cut them into small chunks with kitchen shears right in the pan (quick and mess-free!).
Extras: Warm the naan, pita, or flatbread while poaching the eggs in the oven, and serve it with the shakshuka. I like to keep naan in the freezer for this dish: it thaws quickly and needs just a few minutes in the oven. Or, serve the shakshuka over rice, a nod to Julia Turshen’s curried lentils with coconut milk. Garnishes are optional: Adding chopped cilantro or swirling in a big spoonful of yogurt at the table are two of my favorite ways to go.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon curry powder, or to taste (a salt-free mild or maharajah-style curry recommended)
- 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (or a 26.5-ounce box of chopped tomatoes--I like the Pomi brand)
- 3/4 cup dried red lentils
- 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk, well-stirred
- 1/3 cup water, plus more as needed
- Pinch or two of red chile flakes, optional
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or to taste
- 6 eggs at room temperature
- For serving: chopped cilantro; warm naan (or flatbread or pita)