Monday, February 18, 2013

Another New Spice Mixture: Egyptian Dukkah

I love spices of all kinds, and even more when they are combined to make delightful mixtures. Each time I discover another new flavor combination, I like to try it immediately. I do keep a wide variety of spices at home. I know I keep far more than most people, due to my fascination with all the flavor aspects and combinations. The more exotic the spice, the more curious I become. This all began when living in Guatemala. While the spices used there are not terribly unusual, what made them interesting was the way they were combined. Chilis with chocolate, I asked? How about sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds in desserts?

The next step was Indian spices, which was akin to finding a whole new genre of books to read. I dove in head first and tried every spice and spice mixture I could. Mixtures like Garam Masala are known nearly everywhere these days, but how about something like Panch Phoran? Not long ago I heard of a new spice mixture from the Middle East called Zahtar. I just happened to have all the ingredients, so I mixed up a batch and started using it on everything. It was wonderful.

Yesterday I came upon a reference to Egyptian Dukkah. I immediately looked up everything I could find about this new spice and pulling ideas from many possible recipes, got a glimpse of the personality of this mix. Middle Eastern spice mixtures like Zahtar or Dukkah can be used in many possible applications. One of the simplest is to mix with olive oil. Bread, pita or other flat breads are then dipped into the oil, similarly to the mixture of spices with olive oil in Italian restaurants. Dukkah can be used rubbed onto meats for stewing, frying or grilling. Lamb is used often in the Middle East and is ideal for use with these particular flavors. Sprinkle Dukkah onto eggs, or avocados, salads, pastas or vegetables for remarkable flavor.

Ingredients used for Dukkah

What I learned is that Dukkah is made from some basic ingredients, with other spices added in for variation. The basic ingredient is nuts. Most often hazelnuts are used in combination with almonds, and sometimes sesame seeds. Sometimes pistachios are used in place of the hazelnuts, and chickpeas are yet another option. Other nuts can be substituted, such as macadamia nuts, pine nuts or cashews. The most common spices added to this mixture are coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper and salt. Other possible spices commonly added to this mixture are fennel seeds, sweet or smoked Spanish paprika, caraway, or nigella seeds. Some recipes call for a little Zahtar to be added in, and another spice mixture called Baharat. Some sweeter spices such as cinnamon, cloves or allspice can also be used. In some recipes herbs such as marjoram, mint or thyme are also added in, as well as chili flakes if heat is desired. Here is my recipe:

Dukkah, with olive oil and bread for dipping


This makes about 1 1/2 cups of Dukkah.

1/2 cup shelled hazelnuts
1/2 cup shelled raw almonds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons nigella seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon dried lemon zest
2 teaspoons flake salt, or other salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place nuts on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place the hazelnuts into a kitchen towel to remove as much of the dark skins as possible. Place all the nuts into a food processor and process to small chunks.

Separately, heat a skillet over medium high heat and add in the coriander, cumin, fennel and nigella seeds, with the peppercorns. Toast these in the dry pan, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes, until quite fragrant. Pour the seeds into a bowl to cool. Once cooled, place them in a spice grinder with the dried lemon zest and grind until well broken, but not a fine powder. Alternately, a mortar and pestle can be used. Add the spices to the nut mixture, along with the salt and mix well.

Do give this a try. It is most excellent mixed with olive oil on bread, but try other applications or make other combinations to satisfy your taste.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.