I’ve never been confident in the spelling of dukkah. But I learnt the hard way that if you spell it as ‘dukkha’ in a google search, you will be inundated with information about the Buddhist concept of dukkha, which translates to ‘suffering’, as opposed to the Egyptian spice mix that I’m talking about.
The word dukkah is derived from the Arabic word meaning ‘to pound’. A mixture of nuts, seeds and spices are pound together in a pestle and mortar to create a chunky savoury topping. My first memory of dukkah was when I was 11, on holiday in Australia. We picked up a bag of it at the Eumundi Markets, along with Turkish bread and olive oil and, until the packet was empty, I snacked on bread dipped in oil then dipped in dukkah. You could say it’s rather addictive.
Dukkah is generally a mix of nuts, sesame seeds, coriander and cumin, often with the addition of dried herbs and other spices. But no two recipes are the same, which gives you the creative freedom to change the flavours to your liking. It packs a surprising amount of flavour and brings life into middle eastern dishes and more.
Brigid Sullivan, from La Cave European grocery in Hamilton, loves to sprinkle dukkah on her avocado on toast. She’s not alone. Taria Given from Magills Butchery also dabbles in a bit of dukkah with smashed avo to start the morning right. If you’re going to take their advice, up the spices in your mix with a few chilli flakes and extra black pepper to bring life to the otherwise bland avo.
Speaking of breakfast, Jana Hart, owner of the Bikery in Cambridge, told me her chefs topped their coconut chia porridge with a sweet superfood dukkah, and their Turkish eggs with a sumac version.
To make a sweet dukkah simply stir through a little brown sugar, and swap intensely savoury spices for warm spices like cinnamon and cardamom. Sprinkle sweet dukkah on ice cream, waffles, creamy iced coffee, chocolate mousse or carrot cake. You’ll love the nutty savoury crunch it brings to baking and desserts.
Paul Menneer from Peplers Fine Foods rolls labneh balls in dukkah. This is the perfect canvas to go crazy with dukkah flavours, both sweet and savoury. Serve as a canapé, on a cheese board or as a dessert.
Taria also loves sprinkling dukkah over hummus and baba ghanoush to “make it look a little bit more fancy”. You’ll get a big tick for presentation as well as a boost of flavour and crunchy texture. Pair a carrot hummus with a dukkah packed with caraway seeds; the two will complement each other and you’ll look like a true professional.
Amber Bremner let me in on a hot tip: Brush oil on tortillas, sprinkle with a fine dukkah, cut into wedges and fire in the oven until crispy. The same works for flatbreads, and I’m salivating just thinking about it.
Kathy Paterson tells me that dukkah is magic spread over oven-baked fish fillets and chicken schnitzel. She simply spreads a small amount of mayo over the top of each fish fillet or chicken schnitzel, then sprinkles with a generous but even layer of dukkah. Drizzle a little olive oil over, but mostly around the edges of the meat. The dukkah adds flavour and texture, and makes it look amazing too.
Kathy’s ways with dukkah reminds me of my all-time favourite canapé that my dear neighbour Bernadette makes. She rolls small chicken pieces in dukkah, bakes them in the oven, then serves them hot with sweet chilli sauce; they’re succulent, mouth-watering and I hope she never stops making them.
Dukkah will bring texture and pops of flavour when you need to elevate salads, roast vegetables or cauliflower steaks. The same goes for meats from barbequed to braised; use it liberally, you can’t go wrong.
Whether you diligently follow a recipe or go wild with the spice rack, you’ll soon be sprinkling dukkah on everything.
Sprinkle dukkah on …
Words Harriet Boucher, Image Ashlee Decaires