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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Baharat Kofta with Tahini

Kofta in the Middle East is much loved and much consumed. Every country has not one style but multiple ways of seasoning, spicing, marinating and preparing minced meat that is grilled on skewers on hot coals. ‘Kofta’ is often understood to refer to beef kofta, but the term is also used to describe minced and grilled lamb, chicken or fish. The common denominator between all these types of koftas is that marination with onions, herbs and spices is key to imbuing the meat with the best flavors possible so as to make the kofta really shine as the star dish of the meal. 

Kofta has a somewhat crumbly texture, yet it’s not as hard- packed or tough as say a burger patty owing to the fat content that is also present. Kofta requires a good degree of fat to hold the minced meat together and lend flavor from the fat. What’s essential about good kofta is to use good cuts of meat and ensure a good ratio of meat to fat, otherwise it won’t hold. 

When restaurants or home cooks opt for cheaper or leaner cuts of meat, the koftas don’t hold as well or come off the grill very dry. No amount of seasoning, herbs or accompanying sauces can remedy a dry kofta. 

Kofta can be labor intensive, especially if you’re hoping to grill them on an outdoor grill, but they can easily be prepped and popped into the oven at home. They might lose out on some of that smoky flavor acquired from a fired up barbeque, but it’s still delicious and a great dinner meal for families on a weeknight. 

Our recipe for baharat Egyptian kofta relies on baharat, a spice blend that takes its very name from the Arabic word for ‘spices’. Containing nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, cardamoms and paprika, baharat is a delicious spice blend that flavors red meat very well. The warm nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves help to bring out the sweetness inherent in red meats such as beef and lamb. We would suggest you make this recipe with Dukkan Baharat spice blend because of its intense warm flavor profile and the freshness of its spices.  

We recommend serving this dish with a good heap of fresh salad greens with a salad dressing that’s vinegar–based. A simple ratio of 2 parts olive oil, one part white vinegar, juice of one lemon, a pinch of salt, pepper and cumin can make a basic green salad impart some good flavor to this meal. Add a side of rice or potatoes (mashed or fried both go well) and voila! You have an authentic and satiating authentic Middle Eastern meal for dinner. Don’t forget to serve the kofta with an accompaniment of tahini– kofta is always better with tahini. 

You can prepare this baharat kofta with tahini recipe with either beef or lamb, and save the remaining amount by dividing it into tupperware or ziplock bags to cook in the future. You can store it in the freezer as it will keep well for 3 weeks if frozen.

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Mac and Tahini

What’s not to love about mac and cheese? It evokes more memories of childhood than most foods do. It serves as comfort food on days when we’re feeling low, and days when we just want something quick and easy for dinner for both us and the kids. Rather than the store bought kind from a box with the sauce being a sachet of questionable dehydrated powder, mac and cheese has in recent years been star dishes in some of the country’s most exciting restaurants. 

By using different combinations of high-quality cheeses and spices, mac and cheese has become synonymous not only with American comfort food, but also with the exciting directions American chefs are taking food in, pushing the boundaries of what it means to innovate old, traditional recipes, but still hanging onto the dishes that are, with reason, so loved.  

Our recipe for a vegan mac and cheese is not just for vegans, but also those with dairy intolerances. Like every vegan mac and cheese recipe, it requires a bit of nutritional yeast to get that cheese flavor, but we combine it with Dukkan Tahini, a tahini that has no bitter after taste, to add flavor and heft to a dish. We season it with paprika and chili pepper, and serve it as a side or make it the star dish for dinner. You can hide bits of broccoli in it if you’re feeding children and want to get some greens in there without them noticing, or zucchini which has an even milder taste that can add a bit of sweetness to the dish but not introduce a strong taste.

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Baked Swordfish Steak with Dukkah

Swordfish is native to the waters off the coast of Morocco. Morocco’s extensive coastline, about 2000 miles of it, provides an abundance of fish and a variety of fish types. Moroccans consume a lot of fresh fish, and have an extensive range of recipes for different types of fish-based dishes including tagines, appetizers and fish stews. 

The rest of the Middle Eastern countries also consume fish owing to many countries’ proximity to bodies of water. Fish in Egypt comes from both the Red and Mediterranean Seas; Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia fish from the waters of the Arabian Gulf; Lebanon from the Mediterranean, and Oman and Yemen from the Indian Ocean.  Whether fried or grilled, there are thousands of recipes for fish in the Middle East, and spices feature heavily in almost all recipes. 

Although swordfish is native to Morocco and Algeria only, the colder waters coming in from, and the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, are what allow for bigger, meatier fish to inhabit those waters. Most of the fish found off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea is thin, white and flaky, making for great grilled and fried fish.  

We thought of combining swordfish steak with Dukkan Egyptian Dukkah spice blend to create a light and easy-to-prepare dinner for those nights when you want something hearty but light. So long as you start with a nice cut of swordfish, you can’t go wrong with this dish. To keep it healthy, you can serve with a fresh green side salad, or a side of potato wedges such as our recipe for Dukkah Seasoned Fried Potatoes.

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Simple Deviled Eggs Recipe with Dukkah

Deviled eggs, once a mainstay of cocktail parties in the eighties, have made a comeback. They’re served in restaurants in cities like New York and L.A. as starters, sitting pretty on plates with their centers perfectly piped into high puffs. Garnished and flavored with beets, pickles, caper berries, jalapeno peppers and more, there’s no end to the creativity that people now apply to the once boring deviled egg. 

Eggs are one of those things that do so well with a dollop of mayonnaise. Even those who claim to absolutely hate mayonnaise can’t help but indulge in a deviled egg or two when they’re being passed around at a cocktail or holiday dinner. Deviled eggs look pretty, they’re easy to eat and you can even make the argument that they’re kind of healthy – they’re essentially keto, no? 

Deviled eggs get their flavor from paprika, and our variation on deviled eggs is our use of dukkah, an Egyptian spice blend that’s a flavorsome combination of fennel, sesame, coriander, cumin as well as crushed almonds and hazelnuts. The taste is toasty, smokey and yet somehow sweet. We make our deviled eggs by incorporating Dukkan Egyptian Dukkah as we’re combining the eggs yolks with mayonnaise before piping it into the egg whites. 

Because of the nutritional value of eggs, we’d recommend serving these as a supper for children with some carrots and pita bread. Even the fussiest eaters would get on board with this simple deviled eggs recipe with dukkah.

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Tahini and Okra Salad

Okra doesn’t appeal to a lot of people, and it unfairly has a bad rep for what people perceive as its “slimy” texture when cooked, but truthfully, good okra is delicious and versatile. In the Middle East, okra is smaller in size than its American counterparts, roughly about the size of a thimble. Middle Eastern immigrants are often surprised by the long and woody okra found in North America. 

In Egypt, okra is more often than not cooked with baharat spices and a chunky tomato sauce, and it's delicious and considered such a staple of weekly dinners that most Egyptians associate it as comfort food. Because of its soft texture, it’s oftentimes made for children to eat, particularly young children teething and in need of soft food that’s healthy yet easy to chew. 

This recipe is essentially a stir fry flavored with a good pinch of spices and our lemon tahini dressing but if served cool, makes also for a good salad. It can be a mezze, or made in large batches to serve as a main during a hot summer day when you want something quick and easy to prepare, but yet filling and satisfying. If you want to serve it cold, prepare it ahead of time and let it cool in the fridge. If you want to serve it warm, serve it straight after drizzling the stir fried okra with the dressing. You can even add other ingredients to this recipe such as aubergine, carrots, zucchini or cauliflower if you want to add some more textures and flavors. 

Middle Eastern okra can be found in Arab supermarkets in the frozen aisle section. We’d recommend tracking down Middle Eastern okra because, when cooked, it yields a delicate flavor and is soft and smooth on one’s tongue. You can use frozen okra for this recipe, just defrost an hour or so ahead of time so that it can cook easily.

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