While my cupboards continue to expand as I experiment with different ingredients, I also have picked up new kitchen gadgets along the way as well. Some a bit more isoteric (takoyaki pan, my $2 tagine from Morocco), but others have become integrated into my daily routine (food processor, citrus squeezer, garlic press, immersion blender, kitchen scale, etc). One of the more recent additions to my kitchen has been a coffee grinder that doubles as a spice grinder. In fact, it only grinds spices because I don’t drink coffee.
Freshly ground spices are key for fresh tasting food. I don’t buy ground nutmeg anymore, and routinely grind my own allspice, cardamom and cumin. I have a mortar and pestle, which served its purpose. For most things, it works quite well. My nemesis were coriander seeds, though, which I learned while making dukkah, a sweet-savoury Egyptian spice blend. Oh my! I never knew such small things could give you such a work-out. This is what prompted me to seek out an alternative for my forearms. The spice grinder has lived up to its potential, and I happily make room for it in my cupboards.
So why I am bringing up dukkah?
Well, as I try to eat my way through my fridge and pantries before I move, I discovered a small container harbouring some leftover dukkah in my fridge (right next to my rediscovered miso, no less!). A sniff taste told me this was still fresh! Slightly unconventional, but incredibly delicious, this Egyptian spice mix is spiced with cumin, with a citrus overtone from coriander, with sweetness imparted from almonds and coconut. Earlier, I found it scrumptious with a poached egg and toast, but I was eager to try it with roasted vegetables.
Inspired by Jaden at Steamy Kitchen, I opted to roast cauliflower along with chickpeas until they were both sweet, nutty and brown. Sprinkled with dukkah, with its earthy sweetness, this paired incredibly well. Gosh, I just love rediscovering old favourites.
How do you like to use dukkah?
PS. Wondering why my cauliflower looks a bit purple? Let’s just say I roasted the cauliflower along with some beets. The beets leaked. On the cauliflower. But truly, I see no problem with purple-tinged cauliflower!
I have never had bread pudding before. Stale bread just doesn’t seem that fun for dessert, to be honest. But food blogging tends to push you into new directions. I stumbled upon an Egyptian Bread and Butter Pudding, called Om Ali, while flipping through The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.
Also called Umm Ali or Omm Ali, it literally translates to Ali’s mother. There are different stories as to its origin, but it sounds like Ali’s mom whipped up this delicious dessert from staples in her kitchen. Indeed, one of the reasons I tried it was because I had all these scraps of phyllo dough after trimming them from the baklava and some cream left over from a chocolate fondue feast. It was the perfect leftover throw together dessert.
Indeed, it is the scraps of phyllo (or puff pastry) that sets this dish apart from other bread puddings. In fact, I hesitate to call this a bread pudding, despite it being a pudding with bread in it (phyllo dough, rather). Instead of a bread-heavy dish, it is more of a creamy pudding. It is mixed with crunchy toasted almonds, sweet raisins, and topped with a dusting of cinnamon. This reminded me more of a creamy, baked rice pudding, sans rice, but with other delicious additions. In any case, it is delicious, and easy to make. Let it convert all the bread pudding haters.
This recipe was adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.
This is my submission to My Kitchen, My World for Egyptian travels.
I don’t think I have devoured any cookbook this quickly, nor this ferociously.
I borrowed Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun from the library and I literally was drooling as I read it from cover-to-cover. As the title would suggest, it focuses on the spices of the Eastern Mediterranean, based on recipes from Sortun’s restaurant Oleana in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is organized by spice group, as opposed to course or meal. I was stopped cold in the first chapter, all about the three C’s: Cumin, Coriander and Cardamom.
I don’t like curry and still trying to figure out which spice harbours that earthy tone that makes me lose my appetite. For a while I thought it was coriander, so I had been avoiding it. However, Sortun’s description of coriander had me wooed. She described it as bright, citrusy, acidic and perfumey. I knew I had shunned coriander unfairly.
I set off investigating dukkah (DOO-kah, say that just for kicks!), an Egyptian spice mix with nuts. There are countless recipes for dukkah, some with hazelnuts, pistachios, and/or almonds, different proportions of sesame seeds to coriander and cumin, with optional add-ins like mint, lemon zest and chili flakes. My curiosity was piqued by Sortun’s recipe since it included almonds with coconut. I knew I would love the sweetness, so I flexed my forearms, armed and ready with my mortar and pestle.
Once I had roasted the nuts and spices, ground them together, I snuck a quick taste. I wasn’t immediately enamored. I decided to hold judgement until I had finished assembling my meal.
Inside Artichoke to Za’atar by Greg and Lucy Malouf, there was a recipe for deep-fried soft-boiled eggs covered with dukkah and served with a side of toast. They also mentioned that a plain soft-boiled egg could work easily as well. Anyone who knows me well will know that I don’t like to fry my foods, so I was eager to try the easy, soft-boiled eggs with the dukkah. I toasted some bread, topped it with butter, added the egg and smothered it with dukkah. Only then did I listen to my taste buds. By the end, I was licking my plate as I didn’t want to waste any of the dukkah, it was that good.
They were simple sides, a toasted, buttered sourdough bread with a soft-boiled egg, but it made all the difference with the dukkah. Dukkah is a warm, sweet, salty, and slightly earthy spice mix that mixed best with the butter from the bread and the silky egg.
Traditionally, dukkah is served with fresh Turkish bread with olive oil for dipping. Ana paired hers with a carrot puree that I would like to try next time. Dukkah is very versatile, so I look forward to trying it with other meals.
Until then, I will be content to eat eggs and toast with dukkah for any meal of the day.
This is my submission to the 11th Mediterranean Cooking Event, featuring Egypt this month.