Egypt’s popular aromatic nut and seed blend. Go beyond dukkah’s (pronounced doo’ kah) traditional use as a bread dipper with good olive oil. Dukkah also delivers its exotic flavors and crunchy texture when sprinkled on hummus, green salads and vegetables, grains and legumes of every kind. If you’re like me, the more dukkah you eat, the more dukkah you want to eat.
Just as there’s no one way to spell its name: dakka, duqqa, dukka, dukkah. There’s also no one authentic combination of ingredients. The mixture varies from household to household, spice merchant to spice merchant.
Although there are always nuts, they vary from hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts and even pine nuts. Sesame seeds seem to be universal. Though whole seeds such as coriander, cumin, fennel, nigella and ajwain are sometimes included as well.
Some people toast the nuts and seeds, others not. I go with toasting as it brings out the fullness of each seeds distinctive aroma and flavor. Some recipes include dried herbs. Your choice of thyme, marjoram, mint or oregano.
What’s a cook to do?
As with all things Middle Eastern, I most often rely on Yotam Ottolenghi and Sammi Tamimi for direction. Thus their recipe in Jerusalem served as the foundation recipe. I then lightly adapted it for my kitchen and my taste. I urge you to do the same with this recipe.
Tips for peeling hazelnuts
Hazelnuts have a thin brown and slightly bitter skin. For the best flavor, peel the nuts. If you’ve toasted and wrapped hot hazelnuts in a towel before, you know that rubbing the nuts together begrudgingly removes only some of the skin.
Here’s how to remove even more of that skin:
- Toast hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and immediately wrap the hazelnuts in a clean kitchen towel.
- Let the nuts sit in the towel for at least 20 minutes to cool.
- Then, while still in the towel, use your hands to rub the hazelnuts together to remove their skin.
Here’s why this method works so well:
- When the nuts are heated, they expand.
- When the nuts have time to cool, they contract.
- It is the contraction that separates the nuts from their skin. This allows the skin to more easily fall away.
Inspired by and lightly adapted from Ottolenghi & Tamimi’s recipe in Jerusalem.
Sprinkle dukkah’s exotic flavor and crunchy texture over hummus, green salads and vegetables, grains and legumes of every kind. Completed dukkah stores well in an airtight container for at least a month.
Makes just over 1 cup
Start to Finish 45 minutes (including time to toast and remove the skins from the hazelnuts)
½ cup hazelnuts
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coarsely ground whole black, white or green peppercorns, or a peppercorn blend
3 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
½ teaspoon whole nigella seeds
½ – ¾ teaspoon coarse sea salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon dried mint
½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the hazelnuts 10 minutes. Immediately wrap them in a clean kitchen towel. Let the nuts sit in the towel for at least 20 minutes while you gather and prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Place a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes until hot.
- Measure out each of the seeds and place them in individual containers. Set out two empty dinner-size plates for the toasted seeds.
- Place the fennel seeds in the hot pan. Shake the pan continuously and lift it from the burner as necessary to keep the seeds from burning. After 10 seconds add the cumin seeds. Continue to shake the pan to evenly toast the seeds. After 15-20 seconds the seeds become fragrant, lightly browned and begin popping. Transfer them to one of the empty dinner plates.
- Return the pan to the heat. Add the coarsely ground pepper. Shake the pan continuously until the pepper is fragrant. Transfer to the plate with the toasted fennel and cumin.
- Return the pan to the heat. Add the whole coriander seeds. They take about a minute to turn golden and fragrant. Shake the pan occasionally. Transfer the coriander to the plate with the other seeds.
- Return the pan to the heat. Add both the sesame and nigella seeds. Shake the pan and use a spatula to move the seeds around the pan. (The oil from fresh sesame seeds causes them to stick to the pan.) Sesame seeds take about 2 minutes to toast to a light golden brown. Transfer both the sesame and nigella seeds to the empty dinner plate.
- Now, while still in the towel, use your hands to rub the hazelnuts together to remove their skin. Open the towel and transfer the toasted hazelnuts (leaving their skin behind) to a food processor. Use the pulse button to coarsely chop them.
- Add the toasted fennel, cumin, pepper, coriander and salt to the food processor. Use the pulse button to create a medium coarse and crumbly mixture.
- Add the toasted sesame and nigella seeds, mint and oregano. Use the pulse button once or twice, just to mix them into the other ingredients.
- Dukkah stores well in an airtight container for at least a month.