Dunk your bread in olive oil and brush it through dukkah – that’s how this condiment tale begins, but it’s certainly not where it ends.
Pronounced ‘doo-ka’, this Egyptian spice blend is made up of a mixture of toasted nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios), seeds (sesame and coriander) and spices, such as cumin. Its crunch and nutty undertones are perfect with your hummus and labneh, as a crust on meats and seafood, or simply sprinkled on baked eggs and salads – however you dukkah, you can expect this earthy crumble to season and pop.
Famed for his falafels, Kepos Street Kitchen’s chef and author of Falafel For Breakfast Michael Rantissi is also known for his indulgent sweet side. As you walk into his Kepos Street Kitchen, you’ll see the counter overflowing with a selection of daily hitters, slices and desserts and my waistline thanks you immensely, Rantissi. But if there ever was a dessert that could make you swoon, it would be his signature chocolate brownies studded with loving chunks of halva. Stay with me on that same train of thought, dukkah connoisseurs, because Rantissi ups the brownie ante once again with his not-so-usual combo of date and dukkah, which is a pleasant surprise. “It may seem an unusual pairing, but dates and dukkah create a salty and sweet taste sensation,” writes Rantissi in Falafel For Breakfast. I’ve made these get-rich-quick brownies and can vouch for their salty-sweet genius.
In his book, Rantissi dubs it “the Vegemite of Egypt’ and on his menus, he uses dukkah across breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert - and rightly so, it's a staple. Alongside pomegranate molasses, tahini, baharat and preserved lemon, you’ll find dukkah shining brightly in Middle Eastern feasts and while “traditionally, it’s made with peanuts and is eaten with olive oil and bread for breakfast,” Rantissi writes, his own version calls on hazelnuts for an even nuttier explosion. Just like in his very own test kitchen, he encourages everyone to get creative with their nutty side and wield their own dukkah with love, even at home. Make it ahead of time, store it in an airtight container and future you will forever be grateful for it.
So go forth, toast and roast your nuts and spices then dukkah until your heart's crusted and content – it’s how bread and olive oil would’ve wanted it.
Rantissi’s hazelnut dukkah
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Place 1¾ cup of hazelnuts on one baking tray, and 1 tbsp each of coriander and cumin seeds on a separate tray, and bake for approximately 15 minutes, until toasted. After the hazelnuts and seeds have been in the oven for 10 minutes, add 1¼ cup of sesame seeds on a separate tray and toast for the remaining 5 minutes, or until lightly coloured. Remove all the trays from the oven and allow the nuts and seeds to cool to room temperature. Put the hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse to a coarse breadcrumb size. (You could also crush the hazelnuts the traditional way using a mortar and pestle – good exercise for the biceps!) Transfer the hazelnuts to a large mixing bowl.
Put the cumin and coriander seeds in the food processor and process until almost a powder. (Use a mortar and pestle to do this if you prefer.) Add this powder to the bowl along with the toasted sesame seeds, 2 tsp each of salt and fresh pepper. Mix well using a wooden spoon. Place 3 tbsp of olive oil and 6 tablespoons dukkah in a large bowl and mix together. Grab your crusty bread and labneh, stat!
Down your dukkah
Serve it on your eggs and a selection of soft cheeses like feta, ricotta and/or sheep and goat's milk. Add it to your granola or alternatively, you can make a sweeter dukkah of pistachio, cinnamon, vanilla bean, sesame seeds and coconut sugar to hug lovingly in the morning. Up your Sunday roast with dukkah-flavoured cauliflower, pumpkin, carrots and potatoes. Sprinkle it over your salads and soups or on lamb cutlets (like in this recipe above). Or if, like Rantissi, you like to cross your sweet and savoury wires, then dust it on your milky gelato – yes, on your ice cream. This is a sure-fire way to add a little earthy spice and crunch to your dark chocolate, caramel or coffee scoops.
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