A little mix! Cafe Loren showcases shakshuka
Clever cooks at Camden Town venue are creating a stand-out version of a dish from the Middle East
10 August, 2018 — By Tom Moggach
A new home for shakshuka in Camden Town – Cafe Loren
SHAKSHUKA is a staple dish across the Middle East – and now a café celebrating its popularity and flexibility has opened its doors in Camden Town.
For those of us who have yet to come across the delights of this meal – and the numbers of people who haven’t must be fast dwindling, as the concept has moved from being the preserve of the odd cafe in Golders Green to finding space on the menus of places like Ottolenghi and Honey and Co – here is a quick explanation.
The name translates as “all mixed up”, and it could be seen as a happy accident from a store cupboard challenge: you’ve got some onion and tomato, garlic and spices, a box of eggs… and hello, there it is – a tomato sauce with poached eggs swimming on top. Easy.
Shakshuka has, since its introduction on menus in trendy London cafés, been attributed to Israel: but as with so much Middle Eastern food, the dish (along with falafel and hummus, for example) crosses borders and boundaries.
It is eaten across the area, from Yemen to Tunisia, Libya to Lebanon: all you need is an iron skillet of some kind and perhaps the best thing about it – and something the clever cooks at Cafe Loren are more than aware of – you can add whatever you fancy to the basic idea. They offer up a green version – think a Popeye-style addition of spinach.
There is the Mexican, which includes a good wallop of paprika and some jalapenos liberally scattered on top.
Then there is a feta cheese offering, called the white one, an orange shakshuka, which has carrots, sweet potatoes and chollah bread on the side.
The variations could be endless, but all have the common theme of the tomato base, poached eggs on top, and all are delicious.
The trick to a stand-out shakshuka is to really take time over the tomato sauce – to allow the ingredients to do more than meet and greet one another before heading bellywards.
They have to be best of friends to make it memorable – and Cafe Loren’s version of the dish makes them feel like life-long buddies.
I went for the Mexican (and was asked how spicy, on a scale of 1-10. I can report that six was pretty mild, so be brave), while my companion went for the straight-up traditional.
We supplemented it with side orders – a plate came with a cheese buraks, challah bread and thick and creamy homemade hummus. A Jerusalem salad was delicious – the tahini dressing bringing alive the combination of red pepper, tomatoes, cucumber and olive. At around £10 and serving lovely coffee too, no wonder it is fast becoming known for doing the simple stuff well.
Unit 005-006 Camden Stables Market,
020 3076 0099