My daughter-in-law texted me from her hospital bed. Her Crohn’s disease had finally required an operation on her large intestine. ‘What I can eat’ the message said, and attached were pictures she had taken with her phone camera, pages from the leaflet on low residue foods she would be restricted to eating during the recovery period – easy to digest foods with no fibre. So no berries, cherries, mangoes or olives. No asparagus, aubergine, cabbage, fennel, kale, leeks, mushrooms, onions, peas, sweetcorn or spinach. Etcetera.
Post-op she was only allowed to drink chicken stock soup… in small sips throughout the day. “Can u tell how hungry i am btw?” she wrote. I pored over her lists of food to see if I could rustle up a tasty-not-boring dish that would fit in with her eating regime. Tomatoes OK? Red peppers? Yes and yes! Eggs and potatoes also good to go. No harm in garlic, smoked paprika or ground cumin. Leave out the chilli pepper. Perfect for a little ‘welcome home’ shakshuka, inspired by Ottolenghi.
150g large red peppers
300g large very ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp smoked paprika
pinch of salt
1 tbsp picked coriander leaves, chopped
Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain in a colander. When cool enough to handle, remove the skins. Cut into chunks.
Line a baking tray with foil and heat up the grill. Cut the peppers lengthwise and remove the stalks, seeds and pith. Arrange the peppers on the tray, cut side down. Roast under the grill until blackened and blistered. When cooled pull the skins off. Cut into squares about 2cm.
Put the tomatoes in a medium bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Steep for a few minutes, then drain in a colander. Strip the skins off, these should come away easily. Place a sieve over a medium bowl. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds into the sieve. Let any juices drain through into the bowl. Cut into largish pieces.
Heat a small non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the oil, garlic and potatoes. Fry for a couple of minutes. Add the peppers and tomatoes, plus any juices from the bowl. Add the cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Stir everything to combine and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Make a little well in the mixture and crack in an egg. Make another well and add the second egg. Cover the pan and cook gently until the eggs are just set.
Sprinkle with the coriander and serve straight from the pan.