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Dukkah-crusted wild salmon with yogurt-herb sauce is photographed on July 6, 2015.JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

Call it the Ottolenghi effect.

Since Israeli-British chef Yotam Ottolenghi charmed his way onto everyone's cookbook shelf with bestsellers such as Jerusalem (written with Sami Tamimi) and Plenty More, Middle Eastern cuisine has rocketed into the mainstream. Harissa, pomegranate molasses and za'atar are no longer exotic ingredients here; they're staples. The latest one to hit our pantry is dukkah.

Hailing from Egypt, dukkah (also spelled duqqa and dukka) is a unique mixture of nuts, seeds and spices. While recipes vary from cook to cook, there's usually the rich crunch of hazelnuts, the crackle of sesame seeds, cumin's earthy musk, a strong citrus note from coriander seed and the heat of black pepper. It's habit-forming stuff.

While there are many uses for dukkah, in Egypt it's street food.

"People eat it while strolling along the Nile at sunset," says Maha Barsoom, who moved to Canada from Cairo in 2000, and opened Maha's Fine Egyptian Cuisine in Toronto's east end last September. "It's sold by vendors in paper cones."

At her restaurant, Barsoom serves dukkah traditionally, as a side dish with olive oil and pita.

"First, you dip the bread in the oil," she says. "Then you dip it in the dukkah."

Raw vegetables can also be eaten in this manner as a predinner snack and Barsoom recommends doing the same with hard-boiled eggs.

Dukkah gives many Middle Eastern dips a textural boost, and it's terrific sprinkled over sliced beets on a bed of yogurt or roast squash drizzled with tahini sauce. It's also revelatory in a tomato and hummus sandwich. My favourite way to enjoy dukkah is on fish, especially this time of year, when wild sockeye salmon is in season. It gives it a nice crust without frying and the robust fish stands up to the spices.

Dukkah can be found at many Middle Eastern food shops, but for freshness and flavour it's something you really ought to be making at home. It's very personal, so use this recipe as a guideline and adjust it to your palate. I prefer hazelnuts for their complexity, but peanuts and pistachios are also popular. Some people, including Ottolenghi, like nigella seeds for their roasted onion flavour, and paprika can be used to boost the colour. As for Barsoom's recipe: "Hazelnuts have become very expensive. I use peanuts and a bunch of other things that I will not tell you about."

Since this is a small amount of hazelnuts, you can roast them up to a week in advance when you've already got the oven on for something else. You can also use the toaster oven, though it tends to go quicker.

Servings: 1 cup

Ready Time: 30 minutes


1/2 cup hazelnuts

1/4 cup sesame seeds

2 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

11/2 tsp black peppercorns

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Lemon-Chive Yogurt

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 small clove garlic, grated with rasp

1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest

2 tbsp finely sliced chives

2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice



4 6-ounce (170-gram) wild sockeye salmon fillets

3 to 4 tbsp dukkah



To make the dukkah, preheat oven to 350 F. Place hazelnuts on a small baking tray. Bake until golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from oven. Wrap hazelnuts in a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove skins. (Don’t worry about getting all of them off.) Transfer to a plate to cool.

Place sesame seeds in a small frypan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool. In same frypan, add coriander, cumin and fennel. Cook, stirring, until lightly brown and fragrant, 1 minute. Transfer to a separate plate to cool.

When everything has cooled completely, pulse hazelnuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a mixing bowl. In a spice grinder, pulse coriander, cumin, fennel and peppercorns until fine but not powdery. Add spices, sesame seeds and salt to nuts. Mix thoroughly. Transfer to a glass jar and cover with lid. Store at room temperature up to one month.

To make the lemon-chive yogurt, whisk ingredients for lemon-chive yogurt in a mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the salmon, preheat oven to 350 F. Place salmon, flesh side up, on parchment-lined baking tray. Season lightly with salt. Let sit at room temperature 15 minutes.

Sprinkle salmon generously with dukkah. Bake until slightly underdone, 8 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. (To test for doneness, insert tip of paring knife into thickest part of filet and hold for 5 seconds. If the knife is warm, the salmon is done. If it’s hot, it’s overcooked.)

Serve with lemon-chive yogurt.