The last week has been just a little bit more hectic than usual, with me wrapping up my very first month-long food challenge, which by all accounts was a resounding success (Yaaay!!! Thanks again all 26 of you and especially Lazaro for making it such a blast!) all my boys being home together, as school holidays are on, hubby working late most days and dragging his exhausted self home well after dinner, almost every night....on top of the usual demands and commitments...yada, yada, yada! Meals at home have been quick, sometimes slapdash (sorry boys!). Guilt and fatigue both gnawing at me, I decided to take a leaf out of Bonnie's book and recruit some help - my 11 going on 12-year old, Joseph! Of my 3 boys, Joseph has been the only one, constantly hanging around the kitchen, helping to measure this, sift that and stir the other, especially when I'm baking, as he has a sweet tooth, bordering on the diabetic!

I casually asked him a few days ago, if he would like to make lunch and wonder of wonders, he said "Yes"!! When I asked what he would like to cook, "Shakshouka" tumbled over his lips, without a moment's hesitation. Shakshouka was lunch and very good it was too! So good, that I asked him to take a picture of it, before we dug in, and what he thought of posting it on my blog, with him authoring the post. He had only one question...."Will my name be in it?" It seems everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame ;) Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeere"s ....... JOSEPH!!!

Hi Everyone! My name is Joseph and I'm doing today's post for my mum  because she's a little tired from doing so many things. When she asked me to help her cook something for lunch, I immediately thought of Shakshouka, a Middle Eastern (mum says Sephardic Jewish) dish of minced lamb or beef, tomatoes and eggs because I really like it and wish mum would cook it more often. My brothers and dad love it too, but mum does not like it as much as us. She's always trying to get us to eat vegetables and salads but we still don't really like them! This recipe is from mum's cookbook and the picture below is of her dish when she cooked it for the book photoshoot.

photo by Joshua Tan

Mum wanted to guide me as I cooked it but I only needed help with chopping the onions because they made my eyes hurt and water too much! I did everything else myself because it was quite easy, except for the nasty onions.The one I cooked all by myself, is this one, which is not as pretty as hers, and a bit messy looking because I dripped too much oil on the eggs, but dad said it tasted wonderful and asked me if I want to be a chef when I'm grown up.

photo by Joseph

I'm thinking about it because cooking is more fun than studying  (yuck!) and it's cool that I get to eat everything after it's done. Mum thinks I'll be a better cook than her one day, because she only started coooking for real at 20 but I started at 11 and when she was 11, she couldn't even cook white rice which is a big deal if you're Asian.

I want to try cooking all the dishes in mum's cookbook and if I can, then I think maybe I should be a chef! I was thinking too, that if I helped her cook more often, I'll get to eat more of what I want and not what mum thinks we should eat. I followed everything in the recipe, except I didn't put garlic powder in it because we ran out and mum forgot to buy some more. And, I used only two eggs because that's all we had left and mum forgot to buy some more. Shes' been forgetting a lot of stuff this week. Anyway, this dish is super easy, tastes great and is good for growing kids so I hope you try it and let us know if you like it.

Recipe from Quickies : Morning, Noon and Night  by Denise Fletcher (aka Mum) abridged but unchanged

Prep 10 mins      Cook 25 minutes      Serves 4

4 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 big onion, peel and chop
6 cloves garlic, peel and chop
1/2 a medium eggplant, dice
300g ground (minced) beef
1 level tsp chilli flakes
1/2 level tsp garlic powder (I did not use this)
4 Tbsp tomatoe paste
1 level tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups water or chicken stock
4 eggs (I used 2)

Preheat oven at 200 C (400 F)

Heat oil in a deep pan or pot. Brown onion and garlic and when soft, add eggplant, then stir for about 2 - 3 minutes.

Add beef, turn up heat and stir, breaking up beef until it changes colour. Add chilli flakes, garlic powder, tomato paste. salt. pepper and sugar. Stir until well mixed and colour has deepened.

Add water or stock, stir and simmer until slightly thick. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Transfer meat and tomato mixture to a 20 cm (8 in) by 30 cm (12 in) baking dish. Spread out evenly and make 4 depressions (holes) in the mixture with a soup ladle or cup ( I used a ladle). Break an egg into each depression and drizzle a little oil over each egg.

Bake uncovered for 10 minutes for runny eggs and 15 minutes for firmer eggs. Serve sprinkled with parsley or coriander and fried potatoes on the side.

Thank you Joseph, for saving my skin today ;) and for always being such a help! I'd be lost without you, and you truly make me as proud as any mum could  be. You will definitely be a better cook than your ol' mum one day and if you do become a chef, I know you will be a fantastic one!!