The emergency department kind of reminds me of my life.
I had my first shift last night, yawning on the drive home as the green glow of my car’s clock ticked past 00:00. It was a busy Monday evening with the waiting room full of tired, uncomfortable people and screaming toddlers waiting to be seen. To an outsider, the scene on other side of the double doors might have looked messy, disorganized. Paramedics lining up with patients to be triaged, doctors and nurses spread out in every direction, walking between patients with no rhyme or reason, bed alarms sporadically beeping and patients waiting on cubicle beds, tucked behind the sterile blue curtains. Waiting for something – blood test results, their chest x-ray, for their fever to go down or to be admitted to the ward or for someone to tell them to go home. A couple of medical students like me trying vaguely to be of help.
There is a system, however. The central hub powers it all – the head nurses and admin organize triage, place people in beds in the most efficient order and shift them out again quickly, monitor the arrival times of ambulances and, from their vantage point, oversee the whole show. Doctors are allocated to specific patients, working on multiple at once. Admit the woman with a fever and take blood samples, check the results of the person with chest pain, talk to the family with the viral child, and back to the first – typing up notes, discharging patients and adding new ones the whole time. The consultants are generally around too, watching over the management of each patient – the go-to point for every doctor for advice on any borderline questions, to run an more experienced eye over that ECG, and be there for any difficult cases. Nurses enable it all – taking blood and vitals, shifting people around – almost anything, really.
It is an organized chaos. Busy, but not out of control. Gradually getting there, reducing that waiting room queue, administering care. The system works, though it may not be obvious from an outside glance. This year, that seems to be the theme of my weeks – jumping between different activities, prioritizing, never quite completely on top of everything but never desperately or unpleasantly behind either. Managing.
This recipe is kind of the direct opposite to last week’s – the yin to it’s yang, I guess. Where the salted caramel meringue brownies are decadent and special-occasion worthy, this spicy eggplant shakshuka is everyday easy – still packed with a bucketload of flavour, but healthy and simple. A meal to fit around busy lives.
The secret to perfect eggplant comes in the initial brush with oil, giving each slice a thin coat without the drenched spots of yellow that drizzling results in, and then the oven bake – resulting in tender, golden-brown tipped chunks. They are coated in a punch of middle-eastern ingredients – fresh parsley and coriander, warm paprika and cumin, and a hint of fresh chilli. A thick tomato sauce provides a home for this eggplant, and is topped with eggs, feta and the sharp crunch of extra coriander.
With crusty ciabatta bread on the side, your mouthful looks like this – warm fresh bread, spiced tomato sauce with chunks of herby baked eggplant, oozy yellow egg yolk and crumbles of warm feta. Convinced?
P.S. That ciabatta? Homemade. AND the easiest, most straightforward bread recipe I have EVER tried. 2.5 hours, start to finish. A chewy, air-pocketed crumb, a golden brown crust, and hardly any effort. Want the recipe?
A spicy roast eggplant shakshuka, with cumin, fresh herbs and served with crusty ciabatta bread.
I have also added cooked chickpeas (or a drained can) to this recipe which works well.
- 2 medium or 3 small eggplant
- olive oil to brush
- 3 garlic cloves , crushed
- 1/3 cup chopped parsley
- 1/3 cup chopped coriander
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1 red chilli , finely chopped
- 1/2 white onion , finely chopped
- 4 large tomatoes , roughly chopped
- 1 x 400g can of tomatoes in puree
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 4-6 eggs , depending on how many each person wants
- coriander , extra, roughly chopped
- feta , to serve
- salt and pepper
- ± spinach to serve
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a large (or 2 small) baking tray with baking paper.
Slice the eggplant into 1cm thick rounds. Brush each side with olive oil using a pastry brush and place in a single layer on the baking tray.
Bake for 25 minutes, turning over after 15 minutes so both sides cook evenly.
Meanwhile, combine the the garlic, parsley, coriander, paprika, cumin and chilli in a medium bowl.
When the eggplant are done, remove from the oven. Chop into smaller pieces (usually quarters works well), and add to the spice mix. Stir to combine.
In a large frypan, add a tablespoon of olive oil and the chopped onion, Sautee for 3-4 minutes over a low heat. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook a further 5 minutes to soften
Add the canned tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes.
Add the eggplant spice mixture to the tomatoes in the pan. Stir to combine, and bring to a simmer.
Add the brown sugar, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Stir to combine.
Form small hollows in the mixture using a spoon, and crack an egg into each. Scatter with crumbled feta. Cover with a lid and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Check frequently in the last couple of minutes as the eggs cook quickly. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle extra fresh coriander on top.
Serve with crusty ciabatta bread and spinach (optional).