Dukkah – not a passing fad, but a kitchen boon

“Dessert is a blow-torched nectarine, gouged and stuffed with dukkah.”

Janan Ganesh, describing his fantasy dinner party, with guests including Catherine de’ Medici and Noel Gallagher, in The Financial Times

Dukkah is currently having A Moment. You know it’s the new go-to ingredient when you hear that Ottolenghi swears by it.

Where does it come from?

In fact there is nothing new about dukkah. The word in Arabic (sometimes transcribed as duqqa) simply means ‘pound’ or ‘grind’, and it’s pronounced, ‘doo-ka’.

It comes from Egypt, where it’s been made by every household, and sold for centuries in marketplaces. To eat it truly authentically you need some fresh Egyptian baladi bread which you dip into oil, and then into the dukkah.

The first person to write a recipe for dukkah outside Egypt was Claudia Roden – for more on her researched, historic approach, follow this link. Since then, it’s exported itself to just about everywhere.

what is dukkah
Dukkah has been sold for centuries in Cairo marketplaces.

Sweet version of dukkah

You can make a sweet version of dukkah which you can sprinkle over ice cream, caramelised fruit, cheesecakes, and all kinds of other things. Mix together pistachios, granulated cane sugar, cardamom and cinnamon.

Coarse or fine

If you want a finer grind, you can use in an electric grinder. Our view is that coarse is better – the whole raison d’être of dukkah, well, half of it at least, is to add texture. The other half is the taste.

Why is it worth making your own?

If you toast or dry fry the hazelnuts and cumin seeds you will release the essential oils within – there will simply be more flavour.

But if you really don’t have time one of the best ready-made dukkahs is made by Steenbergs. Their blend includes mustard seeds, garlic and spearmint, and also some wonderful rhomboid-shaped salt crystals.

Steenbergs dukkah - with mustard seeds and appropriately pyramid-shaped salt crystals.
Steenbergs dukkah – with mustard seeds and salt crystals.

We were introduced to homemade dukkah during the cook-along organised for Saucy Dressings by Matthew Pennington and Mark McCabe, where it was served sprinkled over roast hispi cabbage.

I have since watched Ottolenghi’s Masterclass on dukkah. He makes his with a mix of hazelnuts and pine nuts, but suggests experimenting with pistachios (don’t dry fry for too long or they will lose their attractive green hue) and walnuts.

Dukkah keeps in an airtight jar for up to a month.

Things to do with dukkah

  • Over fried white fish fillets
  • Over grilled or roasted vegetables
  • Yotam Ottolenghi uses his over many of the suggestions above, and also over grilled carrots on labneh. He says the dukkah adds texture and flavour to the sweet carrots and sour labneh
  • Matthew Pennington served his scattered over roast hispi cabbage
  • At Mallard Cottage in Canada’s Newfoundland they serve dukkah on local scallops slathered in brown butter – each bite ‘sings with sultry sweet and herbaceous flavours’ according to one reviewer
  • Over salads
  • Over all kinds of dips… hummus, labneh
  • Mixed with oil and then used to top focaccia, pitta, flatbreads…
  • Add to breadcrumbs as a coating for chicken
  • Add some, plus a little olive oil to boiled potatoes
  • On lamb chops
  • Sprinkle over marinated feta
  • Nigella Lawson serves hers over roasted red peppers dressed with a pomegranate molasses and garlic based dressing
  • Top your avocado and toast
  • Even on scrambled eggs!
  • and on fried eggs
  • roll hard boiled eggs – hen, duck, or quail – in oil and then roll in dukkah. Serve with a hot smoked salmon salad
  • sprinkle on flatbreads – either the plain kind, or the type made with yoghurt
  • a very nice thing to do is to sprinkle it over sliced seasoned tomatoes placed over buttered and maybe pestoed (the Saucy Dressings team likes radish pesto) sourdough toast.
  • fry corn on the cob with dukkah

What can you substitute for dukkah?

Za’atar is made with sesame seeds, and dried oregano and thyme. It includes sumac, but it doesn’t have the crunchy texture provided by the nuts in dukkah.

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