Unusual Ingredient of the Week - Dukkah

Equally perfect for a cocktail nibble or as part of an Indian Banquet, Dukkah is an unusual Egyption spice blend that closely resembles finely ground up rubble. However, one taste and you will be transported to ‘give me more’ heaven. Dukkah is a combination of Hazelnuts or Chick Peas, Dried Thyme Leaves, Cumin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Coriander Seeds and Peppercorns that have been toasted and coarsely ground. It doesn’t really sound like much at all, but served with bread or raw vegetables dipped in olive oil, it really is special. The flavour is deeply reminiscent of the Bombay Mix that I used to love so much as a child (it was more exotic than Twiglets and equally moreish), and combined with grassy olive oil and good quality doughy bread (completely untraditional I know), it is becomes so much more than a retro treat.
Not only can Dukkah be eaten as a snack, it also lends a lovely, earthy flavour to meat or vegetables when used as a rub and can be sprinkled over salad leaves to add a bit more interest. The best part is that a little goes a long way. I recently bought a small packet from Seasoned Pioneers thinking that it was in fact Mukwah, which is a completely different thing altogether (though it might be seen as part of the same feast as Dukkah) but I was happily surprised at the versatility of this unassuming little spice mix.
Because I have found my new snack addiction (and this must surely be healthier than Honey Roasted Peanuts and Cashews), here is a recipe for preparing your own Dukkah. You can play around with the type of nut that you use, substituting Almonds or Pistachios for the Hazelnuts instead.
2/3 Cup Toasted (at about 175c for 5 minutes, but keep an eye on them because they catch very quickly) and Skinned Hazelnuts
½ Cup Sesame Seeds
2 Tablespoons Coriander Seeds
2 Tablespoons Cumin Seeds
½ Teaspoon Dried Thyme
2 Tablespoons Freshly Ground Black Pepper (do not use the ready ground stuff, you want heat but also freshness)
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Toast the Sesame Seeds over a medium low heat in a dry small frying pan, until they turn golden brown and you can smell that familiar sesame smell. Pour into a Pestle and Mortar.
In the same pan, toast the Cumin and Coriander Seeds until they start to twitch in the pan and begin to fragrance the kitchen. Add these to the Sesame Seeds. Add the cooled Hazelnuts and using all of your muscle power (or an electric coffee grinder instead. Grinding by hand doesn’t destroy all the natural oils in the nights so much as an electric grinder might so just be sure not to process it for too long), grind for all you’re worth. Add the Thyme then the pepper (not all at once in case you find it too strong), and the salt. Serve with bowls of good quality olive oil (or you could experiment with other types of oil too) and big torn hunks of bread or toasted pitta bread and I have also heard that hard-boiled eggs (I suppose Quail eggs would be the most suitable for a party) are wonderful rolled in it too!

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