Summer 2014, in the middle of an 18 month trip around Asia, Australia and New Zealand, I worked in a little café in one of the suburbs of Melbourne. The café was in a Jewish area and was owned and run by an Israeli family. I was lucky enough to get the chance to work in the kitchen alongside a great chef and teacher who taught me loads about cooking and Middle Eastern food.
Every morning we prepared falafel, hummus, tahini sauce, schug (ridiculously hot chilli paste) and kebabs. We painstakingly chopped cucumber and tomato into tiny cubes in order to make their house Israeli salad. The pot of sauce for the shakshuka was prepared and left bubbling away for hours.
It was at this café that that I had my first taste of shakshuka. Eggs poached in a deliciously spiced rich tomato sauce mopped up with pita bread. I was hooked. Either this, or a generous portion of hummus and tahini, was my lunchtime staple.
I was so sad to leave my Australian family and all that delicious food. So I took the recipes I learned to the café I worked at on my return to the UK and created a little taste of the Australian Middle East in England.