Imagine a piece of bread dipped in lovely golden olive oil. Then, dripping still, is dipped in a bowl of ground nuts, spices, lentils and seeds. The wonderful aromas. The extraordinary flavours. Popped right into your mouth. Over a cup of coffee. For breakfast.
This mix is Middle Eastern in origin, where it is served at breakfast with bread. One takes a piece of bread, dips it first into a bowl of very good olive oil and then into the mix and then eaten.
Dukkah is a real textural treat, blended from nuts such as pistachio, hazelnut or almond with spices such as cumin, toasted sesame and coriander seeds.
In Australia it is quite popular to serve with drinks before a meal. But it is perfect at any time. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. As a salad topping. Sprinkled over roast or steamed vegetables. Sprinkled over soups. Covering bread dipped in olive oil. Divine. For vegetarians it adds a little protein via the sesame seeds and chick peas.
By contrast, Za’atar is a herbaceous mix of thyme and oregano, sometimes marjoram, that is grounded by toasted sesame seeds and lifted by sumac. It’s brilliant sprinkled over homemade hummus, mixed with olive oil for a paste that you can slather over Lebanese bread and used in baked vegetables and salads.
Store the mixes in the fridge – as you do all crushed nuts or nut meal – and it will keep for several months. The recipe for Dukkah is fluid – add and subtract ingredients as you will.
You might also like to try Cucumber Salad with Sesame, Eggplant with Sesame, Mirin and Miso Paste, or Thai Lettuce Wraps. Browse all of our Middle Eastern dishes here and here, and our dips here and here.
Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice – quite tart and quite yummy. It is black in colour. Fresh and tangy, it comes from the berries of a wild bush that grows wild in all Mediterranean areas, especially in Sicily and southern Italy, and parts of the Middle East, especially Iran. It is an essential ingredient in Arabic cooking, being preferred to lemon for sourness and astringency.
You can read more about sumac here.
You can obtain these from Indian or Middle Eastern grocery shops.
- Eat for breakfast, dinner, lunch and tea. If you need a spreadable mix, stir through some really good olive oil or into hummus.
- Spread on pita or flatbread, and bake or put under the griller until hot through.
- Work some into the top of fresh bread dough before baking.
- Strew over salads.
- Sprinkled over roast or steamed vegetables.
- Cover bread dipped in very very good virgin cold pressed olive oil. The quality of the olive oil is the key to the success here.
- Dredge oil-coated chunks of feta in it.
- Add a little to a vinaigrette – 3 parts olive oil, 1 part lemon juice, crushed garlic, chopped parsley, salt and pepper and zahtar.
- Excellent on crostini.
- Substitute either for garlic in garlic bread.
- Add to yoghurt-based mayonnaise for delicious vegetable dips.
- Sprinkle on to hummus.
- Blend with a little natural yoghurt, sea salt and pepper and used with pan fried tofu or as an accompaniment to a hot curry.
- Use it on labneh (thick Lebanese yogurt), with a little bit of potent olive oil.
100 g sesame seeds
50g roasted chick peas
100g coriander seeds
1 Tblspn ground cinnamon or 2 sticks cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
large pinch black or white pepper
1.5 Tblspn cumin seeds
1 Tblspn dried marjoram
1 Tblspn sumac
50 g sunflower seeds
Separately dry roast in a hot frying pan the sesame seeds, chick peas, coriander seeds, hazelnuts and walnuts.
Likewise roast the cumin seeds.
Grind the coriander seeds first, as they are the hardest ingredient.
Then add the remaining dry roasted ingredients and the sunflower seeds and grind – pounding together if doing it by hand until coarsely crushed. If you prefer a finely crushed mix, don’t crush to a state where the oils form the nuts and seeds are released and the mixture starts to form a paste. It should be a dry mixture of ingredients.
Mix the herbs and ground spices. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. It is yummy with a peppery bite, and a slightly salty taste.
Ideally, this is a little coarse. If you prefer a more finely crushed mix, don’t crush to a state where the oils form the nuts and seeds are released and the mixture starts to form a paste. It should be a dry mixture of ingredients.
Use a mortar and pestle if you have one. Blenders and grinders can also be used, but pulse to ensure that the correct coarseness is achieved.
Optionally add: oregano, basil, thyme, savory, lemon zest, fenugreek leaves, parsley, pistachio nuts.
Za’atar | Zahtar
2 Tblspn white sesame seeds
2 tspn cumin seeds
1 Tblspn dried thyme
2 tspn dried oregano
1 Tblspn dried sumac
Dry roast the sesame seeds over a gentle heat until just coloured. Remove from the pan and dry roast the cumin seeds until aromatic. Grind the cumin seeds with the dried herbs to a fine powder and mix with the sesame seeds and sumac. Store in a sealed jar.
Use Hyssop or Wild Thyme if you can source it.
Lovely mixed with olive oil and spread on flatbreads and pita. It is often eaten for breakfast, especially in Lebanon where it is believed it clears your mind and gives you strength.