Egyptian Duqqah to accompany a martini

Ground nuts, herbs and spices served with bread and some good quality oil.  

 I was born in a town in Scotland called Alexandria. It subsequently says Alexandria as my place of birth in my passport, which in turn has led to some interesting questioning by customs and security personnel at various airports I’ve visited in the Middle East.

“Are you Egyptian?”

“I will be whatever you want me to be, so long as you let me past your security desk and into your beautiful country that I have not yet had the chance to see yet thank you.”

I’ve always been drawn to Egypt, old and new. It’s such a fascinating country and while it faces many troubles today I can’t help think that it has faced worse in the past and should therefore be able to cope in the long-run (Inshallah). Whether or not you’re a fan of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi I wish him all the best luck in doing the right thing for the country.

Anyway, I digress. I am delighted to include Egypt in my blog with a contribution to the martini world.

  
Here is some Duqqah (دقة).

As a linguistic side note it is also spelt Dukka or Duqqa, although I have always preferred using the ta-marbutah ة and the correct transliteration of the letter ق – just to be absolutely clear!

However you spell it, the name comes from the Arabic verb ‘to pound’ and contains a coarsely ground selection of nuts (usually hazelnuts but also pistachios, almonds and cashews), sesame seeds and a selection of herbs and spices such as coriander seeds, chilli and/or cumin for example, although this can all be varied to taste.  

To eat it dip some bread into some good quality olive oil then dip it into the duqqah mixture to coat it.

For my recipe I lacked hazelnuts, so I made it as follows:

  • 8 pistachio nuts
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • 4 peanuts
  • Pinch of sunflower seeds
  • Pinch of flaked almonds
  • Pinch of cumin seeds
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Smidgen of pepper
  • Pinch of chilli powder
  • Pinch of turmeric

  
I roughly ground it with a mortar and pestle (but not too much) then served it with pitta bread and a small dish of extra virgin olive oil.

  
This serves two people.

However you can alter the quantities and the ingredients to suit your taste. The varieties are as numerous as Cairo traffic violations. You can even buy it in some supermarkets.

  
And if you were wondering about martinis… the answer is “yes”.

Of course it will go with a martini. However, by eating it, somewhat messily, with ones hands and oily bread, this isn’t perhaps the most elegant martini accompaniment. Save it for when you’re having a drink with more intimate company, not a first martini date. Don’t be deterred though, it’s tasty and interesting with a bit of bite.

  

Bamboo Charcoal Peanuts

  

I think I’ve previously mentioned my interest in black-coloured food, prompted by the 1989 Peter Greenaway film “The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover” in which the chef declares that he charges double the price for black-coloured items on the menu because they resemble death. To eat death is therefore to cheat death, thus giving the diner an additional sense of pleasure and defiance than when eating any other colour of food.  

So naturally, when I saw black-coloured peanuts for sale in a shop in China Town I instantly bought them as a possible martini accompaniment. A recipe attributed to Taiwan, they are made with the ash of bamboo burnt at high temperatures.

 

An unusual combination of savoury and slightly sweet, with a peculiar outer texture I definitely like them. The ash coating wasn’t at all distasteful as some people might expect. I would definitely recommend trying them.

They make an unusual nibble to accompany a martini, as well as a conversational piece. They go nicely with tea as well.

A martini using gin infused with coriander/cilantro



I have previously mentioned that Coriander (cilantro) is the Marmite of the herb world (you either love it or hate it). I have also previously mentioned that I love it. So I infused some gin with it.

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Coriander is already one of the flavours infused into many gin varieties, although juniper is (or should be) the dominant flavour. Being a traditionalist I would normally want to preserve the juniper flavour as the key ingredient but I was curious to try out something new and wanted to satisfy my own love for the coriander flavour. It has a fresh, grassy, almost citrusy taste and pairs well with lemon and lime. Critics often describe the flavour as soapy, so be careful who you serve this to. Otherwise I think it’s delicious.

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To infuse the gin take a handful of coriander leaf per 100ml gin you want to infuse. Wash it, pat it dry then coarsely chop it.

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Add it to a clean jar, top up with gin, seal the lid, give it a vigorous shake, then leave it for around two days. Shake it once or twice each day.

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The gin should turn a nice green hue.

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Strain it and discard the coriander leaves.

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Then decant it into a glass container or two and keep in the fridge to store, and freezer if you want to use it in a martini.

When you’re ready to serve, pour the drink as a normal martini but with coriander gin instead of normal gin. Garnish with some coriander if you have any to hand (or a piece of lemon peel which compliments the zesty coriander flavour) and serve with some nibbles.

When I was testing out the coriander gin first I felt a craving for avocado so I decided to make some very simple guacamole.

I mashed 2 avocados with a square inch of onion, chopped, a handful of chopped fresh coriander, a squeeze of tomato purée, a sprinkling of chilli flakes and a squeeze of lemon or lime (whatever you have to hand) and served it with tortilla chips. This is a very basic guacamole recipe I just threw together with what I had to hand (it was a Friday night and I was exhausted). There are almost bound to be better recipes out there. My cousin in Scotland makes a good one!

The coriander martini also goes well with peanuts.



And seafood.

Here I served a plate of pre-cooked prawns with tiny drizzles of honey, sesame oil, lemon juice, mirin and rice wine vinegar, with further tiny sprinkles of grated lemon zest, chilli flakes and chopped coriander. I wanted to compliment the delicate prawns not anhialate them with a bazooka of sharp flavours.

All in all, I liked the coriander martini more than I was expecting. I also found that it went very well with certain nibbles. I would recommend it for dinner parties but you’ve got to be careful because some of your guests might be of the “I hate coriander” persuasion.