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Sukkha Dukkah

2017 September 17
सुखदु:खे समे कृत्वा लाभालाभौ जयाजयौ
 sukha-dukkhe same kṛitvā lābhālābhau jayājayau

Treat alike your happiness and your distress, 
your gains and your losses, 
your victories and your defeats...
 --Bhagavad Gita, 2-38


“Dukkah” is a seed-nut-spice mix of Egyptian origin, the meaning of the word itself deriving from the Arabic dokah: to pound or powder. And just as the sacred Gita exhorts me to treat happiness (sukkha) and despair (dukkha) with the same stoic equanimity, this little dry spice mix simply does away with that eternally persistent human binary: my happiness (sukkha) becomes my dukkah.


Asking for pun-pardons and moving on to matters of greater anthropological accuracy: an early mention of dukkah appears in Edward William Lane’s 1836 descriptions of Egyptian life in Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians–here:


And here:


Claudia Roden’s 1968 Book of Middle Eastern Food had a family dukkah recipe which ostensibly introduced this rustic fellaheen fare to the rest of the world–and now that rustic is either “artisan” or “chic,” dukkah claims its rightful place at elegant tables in the global everywhere.


Traditionally served with flatbreads and olive oil, we use dukkah on just about anything and everything. Here are some ideas:

  • Sprinkle over hummus for that extra pep
  • Sprinkle over eggs for that extra little bling-zing
  • Sprinkle over salads or raw veggie platters for that extra crunch-munch
  • The bite of nut-seeds goes admirably well on warm soups, like carrot, pumpkin, and even potato (spoon a bit of dukkah, a bit of sharp grated cheese, some chopped chives, and minced-fried bacon if you’re into that sort of thing in discreet little piles on the face of your soup and ..yummmm).
  • Roasted vegetables of all combinations could always do with the sprinkled crunch of dukkah
  • Need an easy appetiser? Quick, get any old bread and serve it with dukkah+olive oil
  • Dress up croquettes and cutlets with a coating of dukkah+breadcrumbs, a combination which holds up very well to light pan-frying–as we’ve done here
  • So also you can coat any marinated fish with dukkah–and pan-fry (just think: lime, salt, chilli–and dukkah!)
  • Need something new to coat shrimp? Try dukkah.

If you’re still unconvinced about making dukkah, maybe I can just remind you that one batch can last a long while if you use it on just a few things every now and again? [Of course, Deborah Madison in Vegetable Literacy advises to use the mix quickly–good advice, and fresher is always better always, but if you refrigerate you can extend its shelf life by months. Trust me, we’ve tried. Many times.] We go through dukkah phases–it gets on everything, or it gets on nothing at all. Until we remember it again and coat warm potato croquettes with it, that is…


Dukkah can also be an open palette for creative expression. Once you get the sense of what it should taste like — sniff about your kitchen pantry, and add other nuts or spices as you please: nigella (kalonji), pistachios (which I added in the version pictured), almonds, a mix of peppercorns, red chille…

And make your dukkah your sukkha, too.

Dukkah Spice Mix
  1. 1 cup hazelnuts
  2. 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  3. 1/2 cup coriander seeds
  4. 1/4 cup cumin seeds
  5. 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  6. 3 pinches of dried thyme
  7. 2 pinches of dried marjoram
  8. 1 generous pinch dried oregano
  9. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  10. Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Most recipes call for toasting in an oven -- but not me. It's a waste of energy to do so & if you live in as hot a clime as mine, it heats up the house rather unnecessarily.
  2. Instead, combine all ingredients (except dried herbs, salt and pepper) and toast very gently over a medium-high flame, turning to low or medium-low if it seems like the hazelnuts might burn faster than other ingredients.
  3. Once all the ingredients are browning and fragrant, turn off the flame and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Transfer to a blender jar -- and pulse just a few times until you have a coarse mixture. You can add the nuts-seeds in batches to achieve an even coarser mix. Whatever you do, don't pulverize this to a powder. The charm of dukkah lies in its uneven texture.
  5. Add the dried herbs and salt-pepper seasonings.
  6. Make sure the mixture is completely cooled, and then transfer to a jar.
  7. Dukkah will store happily for months in an airtight jar. If you want to be extra careful, or if you live in as hot a clime as I do, store the whole mix tightly sealed in the fridge.
Adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy
Adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy

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