We’re going to switch things up this week for Pan-Roasted Cauliflower with Dukkah. Normally you read a title like that and you think, Okay, this is about cauliflower, and then it’s about dukkah, whatever the hell that is. It would then follow that we’d spend a lot of time nattering on about cauliflower and give you a little dukkah sub-recipe (we’re not sophisticated enough to have a site that features sidebars… yet).
But this week the cauliflower is just a tease, a way of filling the seats inside the tent with warm keisters so we have an audience. An audience for dukkah, the exotic headliner who’s come all the way from Egypt, an aromatic mixture of toasted nuts and seeds gussied up with a few fragrant accents.
Although dukkah recipes vary widely, the ones most commonly seen in the West take off on a core of toasted coriander and sesame seeds, adding other ingredients as geography, budget and whim dictate. Immigrant Egyptians working in the Australian wine industry have so popularized dukkah in the land down under that Australian wineries often offer their own proprietary dukkah, flavored with Aussie herbs and ingredients, along with pita bread and olive oil, in their tasting rooms. Traditional dukkah with mint and cumin abounds, but you’re just as likely to discover versions with coconut and chili, or pistachios commingling with hazelnuts. Like Hamlet, at any given point dukkah is being performed somewhere, and while you’re reading this somebody’s probably whipping up a batch with cocoa nibs.
I wrote about dukkah ten years ago after eating it at Chef Ana Sortun’s Cambridge restaurant Oleana. Back then it was virtually unknown. Today I’d say it has a solid following… on the margins, where adventurous eaters burrow ever deeper into distant regional cuisines in search of new culinary highs. I like to sprinkle it on yogurt, on steel-cut oats with eggs (omitted from our earlier post because we wanted to keep things simple), on ice cream, and over salads. In the summer I sometimes grill bluefish and shrimp with dukkah crusts.
If you cook to relieve stress then dukkah may be just the culinary Prozac you’ve been looking for. Dukkah derives from an Arabic word meaning “to pound” because traditional Egyptian preparations call for crushing the toasted ingredients into a gravelly mixture. Should you possess an outsize mortar and pestle and a grievance or two you need to hammer out, by all means have at it. The more equable among can forge ahead with a food processor.
While putting together this introduction I stumbled into a rabbit hole and after a brief trip back through time found… myself. The Wikipedia entry for dukkah contains a link to a “a recipe for dukka with pistachios, cashews and coconut” by an author I love. Check it out. Enjoy.
Same as it ever was… same it ever was… same as it ever was…
(Egyptian Seed, Nut and Spice Mix)
Makes about 8 cups
Dukkah will keep several weeks if stored in a tightly sealed container. We almost always have some within reach sitting in a glass milk bottle with a tight cap. I know it will last several months in the freezer. Beyond that, trust your instincts. We’ve never had any around long enough to find out.
- 1 cup pistachio nuts
- 1 cup cashew nuts
- 1 cup blanched almonds (that’s what we could find – otherwise we’d use unblanched)
- 1 cup hazelnuts
- 1 cup unsweetened, untreated, shredded coconut
- 1 cup sesame seeds
- 1 cup coriander seeds
- 6 tablespoons cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Make 7 flat “boats” out of foil. They should be big enough to hold the nuts and spices in one layer, about 5 inches wide and long enough to fit across a sheet pan. We fit the 4 intended for the nuts on one sheet pan; the remaining 3 on another.
- Chop the pistachios, cashews, almonds and hazelnuts very coarsely, just enough that each whole nut is in 4 pieces. Put one variety of nuts into each of 4 boats and arrange on the first sheet pan. Toast 10-15 minutes, checking the nuts every 5 minutes or so. They’ll probably toast at different rates but pull them out as soon as the pistachios finish (they always seem to finish first). Let all the boats cool on a rack then dump the nuts in a bowl and toss well.
- While the nuts are toasting, spread the coconut, sesame seeds in two of the remaining boats on the second sheet pan. Mix the coriander and cumin seeds together and spread them in the final boat on the same pan. Slide the sheet pan into the oven and toast 5-10 minutes. The coconut will almost certainly finish first, in about 5 minutes, so watch carefully. Pull the pan out as soon as the coconut turns color. Cool on a rack.
- Put the toasted coriander and cumin seeds in a food processor and pulse to chop coarsely. Stir this into the bowl with the nuts.
- Now pulse the nut mix in the food processor in 4 batches. Process each batch just to make a coarse crushed mixture (see the photo). Take care not to blend too finely or the nuts will release their oils and turn everything into a paste.
- Combine all the batches, adding the sesame seeds and toasted coconut. Season with salt and pepper.
Oops! We put them in the wrong order after letting them cool.
Pan-Roasted Cauliflower with Dukkah
- 2 pounds cauliflower
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves coarsely chopped garlic
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup dukkah
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped mint
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Remove the center core of the cauliflower and discard. Cut the cauliflower into 2-inch flowerets. Rinse and drain.
- Combine the oil and garlic in a large sauté pan over medium heat and cook 1 minute. Add the cauliflower and ¼ cup water, season with salt and pepper, cover with a lid and cook, tossing often, for 10 minutes or until tender. Remove the lid and increase the heat so the moisture in the pan evaporates and the cauliflower begins to sear. Stir frequently so nothing burns.
- Add the dukkah, toss well, and transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, toss again and serve warm or at room temperature.
There are few dishes that won’t benefit from the occasional sprinkle of dukkah. In our house it’s standard with poached eggs for breakfast, or over a beet salad with goat cheese. At TRADE we shake a little over ginger ice cream for dessert; at Rialto it gives a North African nudge to an avocado salad. A cup of dukkah in a glass jar makes a great dinner party gift.
We always have some dukkah nearby in a capped bottle for immediate use and store the rest in the freezer. You don’t need to make a full recipe if that’s too much for you. Make half, or a quarter. Also, feel free to mix up the nuts and seeds. I’ve seen it made with walnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. From my perspective the only real necessity is coriander and sesame seeds, but that’s because I really like the combination.
If you clicked on Ken’s link above you encountered a condensed dukkah recipe. I suggest you follow the steps here (which call for toasting the nuts and seeds in the oven instead of doing them in a skillet). The former is a more reliable way of making sure things toast evenly and don’t burn. It’s also easier to scale up or down according to how much you want to make.
Never heard of dukkah until today. Now I know. thank you for the education. Definitely will try this one as I LOVE cauliflower. Ken, your photos are sparkling.
Hi, Monika–You’re too sweet! I’m surprised you haven’t encountered it during one of your visits–we could have given you some to take back for dukkah-crusted Texas venison loin. Ken
You have surpassed my Friday morning expectations with the recipe, the writing and the Talking Heads reference at the end of this entry.
Somewhere, somebody has probably perfected a recipe for Dukkah Dukkah Goose.
I’ll stick with the cauliflower. Can’t wait to try it with its Egyptian twist.
Ha! Although a sprinkle of dukkah over a slice of goose liver paté would not go amiss, especially with a small glass of serious Sauternes. Ken
I first learned about dukkah from our Safari friends the Wineland-Thomsons–they passed it around with some bread and olive oil–dunk the bread so the dukkah has something to stick to. It may or may not have come from Tanzania–have to check on that. Then I made some (different version) and even roasted cauliflower with it (great minds), though I think your pan roast would work better. I am looking forward to making this version. I always enjoy whatever you write Ken. You make Fridays better….
Of course it makes sense that dukkah would migrate deeper into Africa from its Egyptian home, but until your story I’d never heard anyone speak about it. I’m glad I’m helping your Fridays along–mine are generally characterized by relief that I got the post out. ;-) Ken
What’s not to like? Beautiful photos. Great post.
Thanks, Michelle. Actually, dukkah sounds like something that should come from a place called Gourmandistan. Ken
Oh! Thanks for the reminder! We did encounter dukkah – on a wine, olive oil, port, and chocolate tasting tour of the Perth countryside with my sister’s sister-in-law (now, sadly former sister-law). It was at an olive oil farm and tasting room. 2004. We loved it – embarrassed ourselves by ‘tasting’ it too much! We wondered about the name, and why it hadn’t caught on back in the U.S. Never knew the history of that wonderful stuff. You could buy little tubs of the various varieties there, too, so we did. And tried to make some once back home. Your version, and with the roasted cauliflower as a foil, looks and sounds superb! Thanks!
That’s great! (I love getting validated from the opposite side of the world!) When I was first poking around for dukkah info a decade ago I was surprised that a huge number of my internet hits came from Australia instead of Egypt. I began asking questions and that’s how I learned about the winery-workers connection. I even stumbled across a high-end restaurant grilling shrimp and kangaroo in dukkah crusts. I’m not sure whether to be amused or appalled at the evolution of a food for the poor into a treat for the well-off. Ken
Really fascinating. I guess that fits into the category of First World Problem: ‘My ethnic recipe makes me feel guilty.’ Smile!
To continue the international thread, I also came across dukkah on a restaurant table in Rekyjavik Iceland. It sat next to the salt and pepper. Jody
Those Icelanders get around!
Hi Jody and Ken – It is just before 6 AM on Saturday and I’m reading this with my morning coffee. Wow! My grocery list just got longer to include the ingredients for dukkah. Your recipe sounds amazing – I’ve got a lot of fresh fennel in my fridge that I think would benefit from some roasting and dukkah (dukkah-nating?)…..beautiful photos as always Ken!
Dukka-nating! I love it. We’ve done a variation on the usual fennel and orange salad (with dukkah), but I’m sure roasting sounds equally delicious. Up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning? I thought only cyclists and new mothers did that. ;-) Ken
I’m so glad it convinced you. It takes time, but it is worth it to make it… and then use it on everything!–jody
I love everything about this dish, thank you I am inspired to get some Dukakis on the go since I always have these ingredients to hand.
He’s no longer campaigning, but you can still make the dukkah! :-) Ken
I’ve been roasting my cauliflower in the oven with sumac or za’atar–this is definitely the souped up, bumped up version. No one in my family likes cauliflower but me, but it manages to get eaten. I think my boys will like making the boats though, even if I’ll be the one eating it all. I’ll let you know if we have a post-holiday miracle.
Tell them they’re allowed to have ginger ice cream if they sprinkle dukkah on it and finish their broccoli first–I guarantee, they’ll cooperate. Ken
I just found out that Saveur has selected the finalists for their Best Food Blog Awards. If I would have known about it sooner I would have nominated yours for, oh I don’t, maybe Best Single Piece of Culinary Writing or Best Food Photography or Best Cooking Blog.
And by the way, when I commented a few months ago that I hoped you two were working on a cookbook, I didn’t realize you already have one :-)
You’re sweet. When I was in Napa a few weeks ago I met James Oseland, the EIC of SAVEUR. He and Jody were both judges in the SanPellegrino Almost Famous Young Chef finals. I considered slipping him one of our MOO cards, but decided that would be a little over the top. Ah, books… oh, well.
If you want to see and read an account of the S. Pellegrino event stop by here:
It’s Jennifer Che’s blog. She’s a sweetheart and does more food reporting on her blog than anyone I know–and she IS a SAVEUR finalist. Ken
Thanks for pointing me to Jennifer’s blog. She did a wonderful job reporting on both the mystery box and signature dish challenges. I can see why she’s a finalist (and I just went and voted for her too). I confess I was a little star struck by all the celebrity chef judges at the event (Jodi included).
There’s always next year for The Garum Factory and Saveur. You’ll have my vote for sure. And now that you’ve met the EIC….
I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE Dukkah, though I am so lazy I usually buy mine from Ana Sortun’s bakery, Sofra. I’ve never tried it on roasted veggies, though….a brilliant idea.
You BUY your dukkah???!!! Okay, just kidding, you’re buying it from Ana, so that’s cool. I didn’t even know she sold it, despite have sampled a cornucopia (bad word after this past weekend’s HUNGER GAMES) of treats from her shop. It’s delicious, obviously, on carrots, but I like it a lot on a good ol’ goat cheese and beet salad. Ken
I have come across Dukkah and think I even have some in my pantry but I don’t think I have ever used it….(bows head in shame ;o) I am going to make some of my own and follow your recipe. I know I always say this but your photos are SO impressive. Torie
Hi, Torie–What a drag, more compliments about my photos! Oh, well, I’ll just have to bear up under the strain. I think making dukkah will be a walk in the park for you–and then you’ll have to watch out that it doesn’t start contaminating some of your Indian specialties. ;-) Ken
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Hi, Molly–Thanks for the reference! Ken
I am very excited. I FINALLY got around to making a batch of dukkah and my house is redolent with the aroma. Pan roasting the cauliflower with dukkah tonight. Re: Australia connection: in Claudia Roden’s Middle East cooking masterpiece, she mentions it’s her mother’s dukkah recipe that is widely used in Australia (that’s all I know. not sure how or when her mother or the recipe got to Oz). Earlier this week I made hawaj, a Yemeni spice blend, for the first time. Amazing how concocting these spice and nut blends can take your mind off the mundane and transport you to a seemingly more exotic time and place. Thanks for being a pilot. Now I need to go back through old G.F. posts to find the other condiment recipe I’d been meaning to try….
Alison! Nice to hear from you. Glad you’re getting around to dukkah. Be aware: once you let it in your kitchen, it stays forever. People will wander in, murmuring, “What’s that smell?” Re: Claudia Roden. God knows I’ve paged through that book often enough–I can’t believe I missed the reference to dukkah and Australia. I’m a bit skeptical about Australian dukkah being any ONE person’s recipe, given the number of Egyptian migrants, but it would be interesting to track down. Sounds like you’re cooking some wild stuff–Yemeni spice blend! Hawaj–I’m going to have to look it up. Also, you mentioned a book on Middle Eastern cooking awhile back and I meant to write it down… looks like you’re not the only one trolling back through previous posts. Hope the neck is doing well. Ken
You probably already figured out that the book you were looking for is Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. I also mentioned Mourad’s New Moroccan. I’ll be singing the praises of hawaj and dukkah and your blog in the next installment of Slice, which should be out tomorrow. Had the dukkah with steel cut oats this morning and I am ready to take on the world. Next up, trying your avocado salad with pikliz.
NEW MOROCCAN is what I was looking for (already have PLENTY, which is great). I was disappointed to see that it’s not in digital format, so as a guy who just got rid of truckload of books and was resolved to curb his out-of-control deforestation I may have to backslide and buy the hard copy. We’re moving into just the right time of year for the avocado salad. Let me know what you think – I’ve been putting pikliz into turkey sandwiches on buckwheat-walnut bread. Ken
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Thanks for the pingback, Alison. Ken
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Thanks for the pingback, Sara! Ken
Although Sara and I made the dukkah this past summer, it wasn’t until Thursday that the CSA sent me a cauliflower. Rich and I had this dish on top of brown rice and chickpeas. Fantastic! Thank you.
You guys are so healthy it’s breathtaking. I LOVE dukkah. It can transform the ordinary into something really special. Glad you finally got to try one of our favorite combinations. Ken
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Thanks for the shout-out. Glad you like the dish. Ken
This website truly has all of the info I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.
I would really like my husband to try this recipe and make some of the dukkah. Wonderful!
Once you walk through the dukkah gate, there’s no turning back… :-) Ken
Hi Ken. I followed the link over from your bluefish post. Looks like I’m in for a real treat. :) What are your thoughts on following your bluefish recipe but using albacore? We have quite a catch of albacore from a recent fishing excursion. Love the sound of dukkah! I can not imagine it not being wonderful on tuna. This pan roasted cauliflower is fantastic!
I’m sure it will be delicious. Dukkah’s flavor isn’t so overwhelming that whiter fish disappear beneath its taste–I just happen to like the contrast it makes with richer fish. We use it on swordfish (which I think is comparable in flavor strength to albacore) all the time and it’s great. I was home alone tonight, had a late work night and made dinner of a salad of LOTS of fresh tomatoes, some roasted green peppers, cubed pecorino cheese, evoo, rw vinegar and… dukkah. It was great. Ken
By the way, something else that’s good on bluefish is just a little chopped preserved lemon. Good on albacore as well, I’d bet. Ken
So interesting, Amanda and I are commenting about preserved lemons and I must prepare them! My husband went on an impromptu fishing excursion last week and came home with 100 lbs. of albacore. I am looking for refreshing ways to prepare it. What a beautiful fish this fresh caught Pacific Northwest albacore…thank you for your suggestions. :) dukkah and preserved lemons.
Ha! Of course you are (talking with Amanda about PLs). I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m an evangelist for preserved lemons, dukkah and pikliz. Ken
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