Only a small thing, a condiment, but it really packs in some intense, earthy flavours and livens up almost anything.
I’ve finally got round to posting (and finding) some of the Egyptian recipes I cooked in the Spanish sunshine. Having been on the road for a while, recipes can wander off for a while. They normally come back in one piece though.
Spain was so hot, we wanted things simple, quick and of course, super tasty.
Dukkha is ideal in this respect, perfect sprinkled on your favourite salad, mixed into youghurt to make a delicious dip, or even just served with warm flatbreads and olive oil. I also use dukkha on top of roasted or barbecued vegetables and even Middle Eastern stews.
Dukkha is basically a condiment that livens up most things, bringing lovely, deep, toasted flavours, nuttiness and spices. Dukkha keeps well in a sealed container and is a versatile flavour boost to have around the kitchen. You can also play around with the recipe, this is classic old school style, by adding your favourite spices to it.
There are many ways of making dukkha, but I’ve gone for the easiest here. We simply roast all the ingredients in an oven and bash them together in a pestle and mortar. It’s a highly fragrant task. Prepare for your kitchen to be filled with the aromas of toasty nuts n’ spices. It’s delicious.
I’ve been roasting many of my spice mixes at the minute and feel that if you have the time, this is the way to go. Fresh roasted spices, ground in a pestle and mortar, or even a blender, are so much better than shop bought. You can’t even compare really. If you love spices and spicy foods, making your own makes sense. I’ll post my Garam Masala recipe soon.
But this is Egypt. A country I love, whose food blew me away. I really wasn’t expecting it at all, I had no preconceived this and that, I just landed and ate. The hummus is well up there with the best in the world, of course we all know about the falalfels, here’s my version – Egyptian Fava Bean Falafels.
You won’t be too surprised that I traveled all over Egypt and even did some touristy things like try to climb one of the great pyramids, I had no idea this was illegal until a man with a big gun chased me a fair way up the pyramid of Cheops (the big one). It was very early in the morning, I was half asleep (missed the sign) and obviously most of the guards were. To be fair, it was a long climb anyway.
I chilled on Mount Sinai with a load of very happy Christians, clapping with hymns at dawn, staying in monastery. I dove in the Red Sea, a technicolour world bursting with marine life, at night, sat around fires, we looked right into Saudi Arabia, just across the sea. I’m not a big city person, but one of the highlights was Cairo, the old town especially, the call to prayer each morning at 5am was a wake up call in more ways than one. Egypt was the first Muslim country I had traveled around and everything all seemed very exotic and fresh, charged with new flavours, sights and sounds.
I’d love to go back, I didn’t quite make it down to Luxor. Food wise, no problem, I was a vegetarian/ vegan hybrid at the time and always found lots of options, as you do in other Middle Eastern countries. I specifically remember one bowl of perfect hummus, in a restaurant on a busy road, it was packed with families and the mezze style dishes just piled up on my table and I was in some form of food-induced bliss. I’d been walking lots around Cairo (aka getting lost), it’s an ideal walking city with loads of windy lanes and interesting architecture. I needed to keep my energy up you see! Bring on the falafels…..
Buddhist tangent – Dukkha is also the word for “suffering” or more accurately ‘unsatisfactoriness” in Pali, the ancient language of many early Buddhist texts. It’s what we feel about life much of the time said Buddha. When I first came across the Egyptian condiment, I couldn’t separate the two really. Spicy suffering crumbs, toasty torment, I’ve been through them all. The opposite of Dukkha is Sukha in Pali, meaning something like “happiness”. I was thinking about coming up with a recipe for Sukha, the topping to sprinkle all over your Nirvana, but I’ve never could see past Dukkha. Here in lies my inherent problem. I just can’t get enough of that Dukkha!!
I hope you get to try this recipe out, please let us know in the comments below. Have you been to Egypt how did you find the food? Are you a fellow vegan traveler, seeking out the tastiest plates in the coolest places?
The Bits – Makes one small bowlful
50g sesame seeds
25g hazelnuts (very roughly chopped)
10g cumin seeds
8g coriander seeds
1g dried thyme
3/4 teas sea salt
Preheat a fan oven to 180oC.
Toss everything on a baking tray and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes, checking after 8 minutes. Mix the dukkha up a little to ensure that everything is getting an equal amount of heat.
Once the sesame seeds and hazelnut have gone a darker shade, place the dukkha into a pestle and mortar. You can do this in batches unless you have a giant pestle and mortar. Grind it all down, I like a few who spices left in there for extra flavour explosions.
Nuts are just packed with nutrition. Hazelnuts are good for the heart, containing good fats and plenty of fibre, magnesium, protein and Vitamin E. You can read our previous Foodie Fact about our tips for soaking nuts to maximise and transform the nutritional properties of nuts here. It’s a little tip that can have a big effect on a healthier diet.