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Deconstructing Dukka

June 9th, 2008 | 3 Comments »

Nuts, seeds…..it isn’t too complicated, but in trying to find out more information about this aromatic and amazing Middle Eastern spice mix (say ‘Doo-kah), I came across more variations on a theme than I ever anticipated. It’s just nuts. And seeds!

But apparently, it’s one of those ‘authentic’ spice blends that varies as much as the fingerprint on the cook who is creating the mix. Use roasted hazelnuts; no use roasted chick peas. Don’t use sunflower seeds…oh wait, this version calls for sunflower seeds. This one requires pumpkin seeds, this one walnuts This one needs a bay leaf! I need thyme!! I need cinnamon!!! I need telicherry peppercorns!!!!

Oooh boy….. I need a drink.

Thankfully, all this clicking around on the web came after I had already made up the recipe from the current issue of Food and Wine magazine. Had I done all this foot work beforehand, I may have just tossed my hands in the air begging for mercy. Cooking, at least in my kitchen, just doesn’t need to be so whittled away like one may peel an onion. I’m all for the philosophy that if it works for you, then that’s the best way to go.

And this recipe worked for me. But then again, I am a nutcase, er, well, I mean….. I really like nuts. To eat. And a recipe with no less than four types of nuts in it deserves a spot in my kitchen. Pistachios, almonds, cashews and hazelnuts are oven-roasted; coriander and cumin seed, along with unsweetened coconut and sesame seeds are lightly toasted in a hot skillet, and the resulting fragrant chaos is pulsed in a food processor to a coarse consistency. Or chunky. Or a powder. Or a paste. According to the endless variations, you can pick your level of nutty destruction, and if you’re one to have texture issues, this is a good thing.

The one thing that all the recipes I came across seem to agree on is that the most common way to eat the delectable mess of nuts is to dip bread into olive oil and then dredge it in the mix. I can vouch for the reliability of this usage; it works really well. And had I not made a delicious Chicken Satay for dinner, with a nice vegetable coucous on the side, I would have been fully satisfied to consume the entire ciabatta loaf dipped in perfect oil and rich with the heady crunch of this blend. Even upon discovering that an error on my part resulted in about 10 times more cumin seeds in my mix than the original recipe called for, it was still wonderful, fragrant, and happily received. I can’t wait to spoon it into my morning yogurt, sprinkle it over a salad, blend it into hot cereal, use it to coat chicken, spoon onto ice cream……..

You see……the resulting possibilities, as I have discovered, are as endless as the recipe variations I found, making it not only delicious, but infinitely versatile as well. And I just love foods like that.

(jump for recipe and notes)

Dukka- middle eastern spice mix
From July 2008 Food and Wine magazine

1/4 c. each raw pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts and cashews
1/4 c. coriander seeds
1/4 c. unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 T. cumin seeds
1/4 c. sesame seeds

In a 350 degree oven, roast the nuts until golden brown and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes. Empty into bowl to cool slightly. In a skillet over medium heat, toast coriander seeds until fragrant and browned, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from pan to bowl for cooling. Toast cumin and coconut until coconut is golden, 4-8 minutes. Cool with coriander. Toast sesame seeds until golden, 4-6 minutes. Cool separately.

In work bowl of food processor, combine nuts, coriander, cumin and coconut; pulse until coarsely chopped, or preferred consistency. Empty into large bowl and add sesame seeds, stirring to combine. Season with a little kosher salt and black pepper if desired. Keep in airtight container, either refrigerated or frozen.


I used peanuts instead of hazelnuts as I don’t have a source for bulk hazelnuts at the grocer. I also used nuts that were already roasted (no raw available) and in some cases salted, so I did not add any salt to the finished product. I am thinking that you probably won’t need to salt this mixture unless you prefer that kind of flavor. Toast and roast the seeds/nuts enough and the flavor is out of this world. Feel free to sub nuts of choice, or leave out the coconut if it isn’t your thing.

Be very careful not to burn anything, especially the sesame seeds. I take them out of the pan right away when they are done to cool in a bowl; leave them in and you’re sure to have a smoking mess before you can even say ‘Fire alarm’.

3 responses to “Deconstructing Dukka”

  1. kate says:

    The flavours of the Dukka must be amazing. I know I would love this – I’m a huge nut fan and I love the taste of coriander.

    When I saw the title of this post, I thought of your, er, current president. I wonder why!

  2. My level of nutty destruction is pretty low. But can I just keep saying “nutty destruction?” I love it.

    Nutty destruction.

  3. The best dukka I’ve ever had was in a tiny Middle Eastern restaurant in Long Beach. I could make a meal out of it with warm flat bread. You don’t happen to have any leftovers, do you, Kate?