Such a funny little name. For such a big flavour punch. It’s an Egyptian blend of spices, seeds and ground nuts, most often almonds, but I’ve seen pistachios used as well. Usually when I think of spice blends, like Indian garam masala, or Moroccan ras-el-hanout, I think of little jars of colourful powders, the spices ground down to a lovely melange, ready to be added to curries, stews, braises etc. However, the first time I experienced dukkah or dukka, about 10 years back at the home of a family originally from Egypt, they presented the blend in a bowl. Just the mixture. Cold, raw. Beside it another bowl, filled with olive oil. And a plate of bread cubes. Well, what was I supposed to do with this? Then they demonstrated. Grab a piece of bread, dip it into the oil and then dip the oily bit into the spice mixture. Just enough would cling to the oil. Pop it in the mouth. So I tried it. I loved it!!! Just so much fun happening in my mouth! The flavours separated so that I tasted the cumin, then the slight tang from the coriander, and the richness from the ground nuts And then the perfect amount of heat. I could eat this all evening, which is dangerous, because unless I could just stick my finger into the oil and then the dukka, I would have to use the customary (and hygenic) bread cubes. Bread, my kryptonite.
Well I couldn’t leave dukka to being just a once in a lifetime experience. That would be such a shame and denying my tastebuds such a rich treat. So between the gracious mother who made her batch, to the internet, I have gleaned what is possible about this little gem of a spice blend. Dukka is Egyptian, a condiment made up of a mixture of herbs, spices and ground nuts. It is served as I described, with bread, or with fresh crudités as an hors d’oeuvre. I’ve heard it pronounced both ways: dooka or ducka. I think the correct way is somewhere in between! The word dukka comes from the Arabic word for ‘to pound’ since the mixture of herbs, spices, and nuts are pounded together after being dry roasted. I have used a mortar and pestle to achieve the final blend, but some also use a coffee grinder or food processor. You can now find it in some Middle Eastern grocery stores, where some versions may contain pine nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, even chickpeas, millet, or nigella seeds.
Once prepared, it keeps pretty good in the back of the fridge. I use it for coating chicken before grilling, sprinkle it on pita breads brushed with olive oil going in to the oven to toast up, even rolling hardboiled eggs in it for a great flavour and presentation. Add it to scrambled eggs, or sprinkle it on the cheese for your grilled cheese sandwich. How about over roasted carrots? Add it to yogurt to make a great creamy veggie dip. I’d love to hear how you would use it 🙂
- 3/4 cup whole blanched almonds
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- 4 tsp chilli powder
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp nigella seeds
- 1 tsp celery seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp onion salt
- 1/4 tsp cracked pepper
- cayenne pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Spread out the almonds on a baking sheet. Roast for about 10 minutes, or until they are just starting to turn golden brown and become fragrant. Let cool completely.
- In a dry skillet, toast all the seeds over med to med-high heat, until just fragrant, about 5 minutes. Let cool.
- Place the almonds into a mortar and pestle. Crush as small as possible. (Alternatively you may use a food processor, but do not let the nuts grind down too fine, and release any oil)
- Once the almonds are small (you want them small enough to cling to the olive oiled bread, too large of pieces may fall off)
- Add the toasted, cooled seeds. Add the remaining onion salt, chilli powder and both peppers. Pound well with the pestle until everything is well blended. Taste to ensure you like it. You may add a bit of salt, as I hold back from over salting at the beginning.
- Store in a sealed container in the fridge for a few weeks, or store in the freezer and take out as you need it.