Homemade Seasoned Nuts

Flavored and seasoned nuts such as smoked almonds or herbed cashews are so delicious. They’re easily found in every supermarket in the U.S. now and the options of flavors and varieties keep expanding year on year. In the Middle East, cashews, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios are very popular and feature in many recipes. Whether it’s incorporated into desserts, or whether garnishing meat-based tagines and rice dishes, nuts are found in both savory and sweet dishes Middle Eastern cuisine. 

Owing to the cost of nuts, particularly in the 19th and early 20th century, nuts are seen as a decadent and rich man’s ingredient, thereby the connotation of nuts in a dish or when served or offered as a gift carries with it many connotations. 

Today, nuts are roasted and sold in abundance by high end gourmet boutiques that cater to a clientele with a considerable appreciation for high-quality nuts. These nuts, which can be bought simply salted, or roasted and seasoned with spices, are great accompaniments to apero drinks and as amuse bouches before a dinner. The one downside to buying seasoned nuts from a store is that you can’t be sure of how much oil, preservatives and additives have been added. It’s easy enough to make seasoned nuts at home, it just requires good quality nuts and good quality spices and a dose of creativity! 

We use Dukkan’s spices to season our nuts and make fresh batches of flavorful snacks whenever we’re expecting to receive visitors or when the mood strikes us. These are also great for when you’re home watching the game and want a more sophisticated snack during your TV viewing.  This recipe is a base recipe for the method of creating seasoned spices, so experiment with your choice of nuts (you can even combine a few together for variety) and the spices to come up with your favorite flavors.

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Although it surprises many to hear this, Egypt in winter time can be an uncomfortably cold place. The humid, wet cold of the cities of Cairo and Alexandria, coupled with the dry cold of the Egyptian desert, means that wherever you are in the country, winter is not a wholly pleasant experience. A diet of warming foods and soups is on constant rotation during the months of December, January and February in any Egyptian household. 

Lentil soup is a mainstay of an Egyptian diet in winter time. It’s an easy soup to prepare, and both children and adults alike love it for being hearty, filling and flavorful owing to the heavy sprinkling of cumin that’s used to flavor it. As a recipe and flavor profile, lentil soup is closest to daal, an Indian dish based on yellow lentils, but the consistency is different; and a squeeze of lemon is used to flavor lentil soup just before serving. 

Although lentil soup is traditionally made with cumin, we’ve given this lentil baharat soup recipe a bit of a twist by incorporating baharat, an Egyptian spice blend that contains nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, black peppers, and cardamom. Baharat goes very well with sweet vegetables such as carrots, but we thought of combining the heartiness of lentils with the sweetness of baharat to add more flavor to this soup and to expand our soup repertoire a little bit. We add a small potato to give it some starch, and a small tomato to give it color, but generally this soup is made of very basic ingredients. Best thing of all is that it’s vegan and gluten free- perfect for every friend and family member sharing this dish with you!

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