Indelible. To make a lasting impression; never to be forgotten.
Might seem like a strange adjective to describe the Egyptian spice blend dukkah. But it has the kind of flavor profile and history that evokes lasting memories. When my friend Orly (@Yumivore) first spoke to me about eating it as a child, her stories made a lasting impression on me, as the childhood flavors did on her. When I called her the other day to recount more from her dukkah diaries, the same passion I remembered instantly bubbled up as she told me of the bread and butter that was always served with it — olive oil if it wasn’t breakfast, the way her family pronounces it “do’ah”, and how it is, like za’atar, a ubiquitous ingredient in many parts of the Middle East, especially Egypt.
So as we learn about this evocative spice blend, think of it like taking a virtual trip to the Middle East as you discover all the variations in flavor and ponder how to make a blend that is just right for you.
Many Ways to Make it, Many Ways to Pronounce it
In Egyptian, dukkah means “to crush” or “to pound” and is pronounced do’ah or DOO-kah.There are written references to dukkah in Egypt dating back to 1836, where E.W. Lane commented on it as peasant food to flavor bread in his book The Manners & Customs of the Modern Egyptians. And as with so many Middle Eastern spice blends, dukkah recipes vary by cook — in ingredients and proportions.
Claudia Roden’s 1968 cookbook A Book of Middle Eastern Foodpublished her mother’s dukkah recipe, the first recipe for the spice blend outside Egypt’s borders. “The spices in it are cumin, coriander, sesame seeds and hazelnuts. In Egypt people have their own personal mixes. Some use peanuts or almonds instead of hazelnuts and add dried mint,” Roden notes in an interview in a Telegraph article.
Chocolate and Zucchini blog notes that it’s made with “nuts (most commonly hazelnuts, sometimes pistachios or almonds) and seeds (cumin, sesame, coriander, fennel), as well as pepper berries, salt, and sometimes dried herbs and chili pepper. The ingredients are lightly toasted, then ground together into a not-too-fine powder.” Chocolate and Zucchini’s recipe uses hazelnuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, pepper, thyme and salt.
Serious Eats blog lists the typical ingredients as cumin, coriander, sesame seeds, salt, dried herbs, and nuts, noting that peanuts are widely available in Egypt and often used in the blend.
And the Jerusalem recipe uses hazelnuts, sunflower, fennel, cumin, sesame, coriander, and nigella seeds as well as peppercorns and paprika.
For an African perspective, in Marcus Samuelsson’s book The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africait is spelled Duqqa and uses peanuts as well as pumpkin, sesame, coriander, and cumin seeds and two herbs – thyme and mint.
How to Make your Own Dukkah
To make dukkah on your own, almost any nut will do. The key is to toast each seed and nut separately until fragrant. Then grind to a coarse powder with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
Dukkah is traditionally served as an early evening snack. Diners dip bread in a pool of oil and then in the powdered spice blend. Yumivore recently used it to top some divine-looking deviled eggs.
Ottolenghi and Tamimi suggest adding it to leafy salads, roasted vegetables, bean pastes such as hummus or with cooked rice or lentils. It’s also excellent with yogurt or labneh and would probably be an inspired topping to many pureed soups to add flavor and texture.
In Australia, where dukkah is quite popular, it’s eaten solo like a bar snack, notes Serious Eats.
Dukkah Recipes from “Jerusalem” and Beyond:
1. Dukkah, pg 300
3. Claudia Roden’s recipe via The Telegraph
Pick one of these recipes or create your own – we can’t wait to hear how you personalize it to your taste preferences.
Welcome to Tasting Jerusalem
If you’re new to the group, here are our “rules” (there really aren’t any except to cook and share your experiences.)
- How often will we cook: We’ll pick a new set of recipes monthly to allow us all to fit in the cooking when we can and to find any ingredients that might not be available at your typical grocery store stop.
- Do I need to cook all the recipes?: We offer up several recipes to fit your taste buds, menus, schedules – cook as many or as few as you desire. But once you start cooking from this book, you probably won’t stop!
- What do I need to participate: Jerusalem: A Cookbook Plus an interest in cooking, willingness to try new flavors, and an electronic device that communicates via the Internet. We will always post the month’s information in a blog post via omgyummy.com so you can subscribe to Beth’s blog to be guaranteed to receive it or just check in frequently via the Facebook page or Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm
- How to share what you cook: Tasting Jerusalem is open to anyone. You do not have to be a blogger or food professional of any sort. But if you have a camera, we encourage you to share photos of your dishes on Twitter or the Facebook page or Instagram, using the hashtag #TastingJrslm – we all love to see the results of your kitchen adventures. New to these types of social media? Just drop me an email beth (at) omgyummy (dot) com – I’ll be glad to help you get started.
- What recipes can be published and how to publish: We expect to cook through most, if not all, of the recipes in the cookbook over time. As such, for those of us blogging or writing about our experiences in any way, it’s important that we don’t include the recipe in our blog posts, unless Ten Speed Press has approved its use. The goal of the group is to learn together and enrich our experience using this cookbook, not create an online version of it. We are in touch with Ten Speed Press to find out which recipes we can post. For an example of another group that writes about their cooking but doesn’t post each recipe, please visit French Fridays with Dorie. If you legitimately change a recipe, rewrite the headnote and instructions, and choose to share it, please say you’ve adapted it, giving credit to the source including a link to purchase the cookbook.
- What if I have questions? Sarene and I will be monitoring the Facebook page and Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm almost continuously so just leave us a note there. If you see a question and know the answer, jump on in before us. Part of the fun of the group will be each of us sharing our own knowledge, perspectives and ideas.
- What to include if you write a blog post: If you do post about what you cook, please let us know – we will link to it. And feel free to post it on the Facebook page and Twitter with the #TastingJrslm hashtag. We’d also appreciate it if you would include this verbiage in the context of your post:
“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to omgyummy.com, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest.”