We first saw this recipe about a year ago and thought that it sounded quite interesting, exotic, and different. We thought, “Duqqa? A spice mixture from Egypt. We’ve never tried any dish from Egypt. Let’s try it!” The best part, as far as we can tell, is that, while duqqa (pronounced due-ka), is traditionally used as a dip for bread, it can be used as an all-purpose seasoning for almost dish you want to liven up. At its core, duqqa is a nut spice mixture — it’s not necessarily spicy hot — so we think that it would be good with many savory dishes, such as a light topping for pasta, a crunchy topping on baked mac and cheese, or even a sprinkle on steamed vegetables to move them from the humdrum to wow!
While we base our first version of duqqa on a recipe that we found in Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy, we learned that most families in Egypt have their own version, so you’ll be able to make a version even if you don’t have all the ingredients suggested. Just make substitutions willy-nilly and see how it turns out.
As far as we can tell, you can use just about any type of nuts: almonds, peanuts, pistachios, or a mix. Hazelnuts are the most common. Make sure that you use unsalted nuts or your duqqa will be too salty. It does seems as though sesame seeds are always an ingredient in duqqa, so you might want to use those. Sure, we know that a half-cup of sesame seeds will cost a lot at the grocery store, but head out to an ethnic market, or Penzey’s Spices, and you’ll be able to get large bags for the price of a tiny bottle at the store. Same with any of the other spices, and, as we mentioned above, feel free to substitute (we used ground coriander because we didn’t have any coriander seeds) or use things you like. Don’t like fennel seeds? How about caraway seeds, instead? Sure.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Roast nuts. Whatever kind of nuts you’ve decided on, make sure to give them a roasting to bring out their nuttiness. Place nuts on a rimmed baking sheets and bake until they smell nutty and begin to turn golden. In the case of hazelnuts, the skins will split and start to flake off.
Cool and skin. If you’re roasting hazelnuts, take them from the oven (leave oven on) and let them cool long enough so you can handle them without being burned. Then rub the skins right off. There will be a few stubborn nuts that refuse to have the skins peel off, but you can show them who’s boss by eating them. As you rub off the skins, transfer the nuts to the bowl of a food processor.
Roast seeds. Once you’ve finished with the nuts, wipe the skins off the baking sheet (we take ours outside and shake off the skins), and place the seeds and any spices you want to toast (for example, we toasted the coriander powder because it came from seeds, but not the thyme or oregano because they’re from leaves and might burn) on it. Toast in the oven until fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Cool. Remove the seeds (you can turn off the oven now, we’re finished roasting things) and let them cool. Once cool, add to the food processor bowl along with the nuts.
Add herbs. Now add the remaining ingredients: salt, pepper, oregano, thyme.
Grind. Before the invention of food processors, someone pounded the spice/nut mixture until the nuts were ground, but, with kitchen technology as it is today, you can flip the switch for about 20 seconds and grind the mixture with almost no effort. Don’t run the processor so long that the nuts turn into nut butter, but just long enough that the nuts are ground to pieces smaller than 1/16th of an inch.
Taste and adjust. Taste the duqqa and add salt and pepper as needed, then give the processor a pulse to combine.
Jar. Once completely cool, place the duqqa in an airtight container such as a jar and keep in the refrigerator.
Duqqa is so easy to make that we can’t imagine there’s anyone who wouldn’t at least want to try it, especially since it sounds so exotic. Our first experiment with duqqa was sprinkling a bit on some quick pizza bread that we were making for a snack. Success. It was really good, although overpowered just a bit by the sauce and Parmesan cheese. Then we tried some in the traditional way, in which we dipped bread in olive oil, then in the duqqa. Yummy! Just from these two tests, we were able to come up with a number of ideas for using duqqa: mixing with cream cheese or butter for a spread, topping for any casserole. Sprinkling on bagels before baking them, even sprinkling on popcorn. With all this versatility going for it, we think that duqqa will soon become a regular in our house. Fives!