Duqqa

Originating in Egypt, this delicious blend of nuts and spices is my new favourite thing to put on pretty much everything. Traditionally it is eaten as a condiment with bread or vegetables being first dipped into olive oil, and then in to Duqqa. 

The name Duqqa (or Dukkah as it is sometimes spelt) derives from the Arabic word for “to pound” as it is made by dry roasting and then smashing together sesame seeds, hazelnuts and a mx of whole spices. It isn’t fine like a spice, but it’s ground into an almost mealy texture halfway between couscous and Polenta. There are many versions of Duqqa sold in street markets in Egypt, and of course every family has their own recipe handed down through generations. I like mine earthy and strongly nutty with good heat from black peppercorns, but I also like a sweeter Duqqa with cinnamon for sprinkling over porridge.


Ingredients:

  • 200g hazelnuts, shelled, skinned and roughly chopped.
  • 100g of flaked almonds
  • 200g sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes

Method

  1. Firstly toast the nuts and the seeds in a heav bottomed frying pan, over a low heat. Keep them moving so they don’t burn. Watch out for flying sesame seeds and remove from the heat when the nuts and seeds are nicely golden all over.
  2. Toast the whole spices and grind. I used an electric spice grinder for this and pulsed it until the spices were ground but not too finely. Place the spices in a mixing bowl.
  3. Next grind the nuts and seeds. I grind a third of the mixture to a similar texture to the spices, the next third to a slightly coarser texture and the final portion I pound by hand in the pestle and mortar to give a less uniform consistency.
  4. Mix all of the ingredients together with a little salt, tasting as you go.


This is just the way I like to make Duqqa. If you prefer yours spicier or less spicy, more fragrant or more sweet, experiment with different whole spices and dried herbs. Lots of variations include dried mint, dried marjoram and thyme as well as cinnamon and cardamom.

I like to use Duqqa as a garnish on soups such as Carrot and Lentil. It goes very well on hoummous and you can sprinkle it over salads for a different flavour dimension. To make a sweet Duqqa, I reduce the amount of cumin, leave out the coriander and black pepper, reduce the chilli by a little and add lots of cinnamon, a little nutmeg and all spice. It’s really good on porridge and yoghurt. 

Tea Loaf

Tea Loaf, not to be confused with Tea Cake is a light and juicy fruit cake. The dried fruit is re-hydrated by being simmered in black tea, giving the cake a simultaneously rich and zingy flavour. 

I must confess I actually hate fruit cake; I’m not really a fan of raisins and I personally really dislike the way dried fruit tastes when it’s been soaked for days and baked into a cake for an eternity in a slow oven. But my husband loves this kind of cake, so for anyone else who enjoys a light and fragrant fruit cake to nibble on over a cup of tea in the afternoon sunshine, here is my recipe:


Ingredients:

  • 300g mixed dried fruit
  • 225g water
  • 4 tea bags (I prefer Earl Grey, but any black tea will do)
  • The juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 100g of sugar
  • 50g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 225g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder


Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C / gas mark 4. Grease and line a 1lb Loaf tin.
  2. Place the water and tea bags in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the lemon juice and zest followed by the dry fruit. Simmer the whole mix for about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Take out the tea bags and discard.
  4. Set the pan aside for a minimum of 15 minutes to cool. Whilst the mixture is cooling, the fruit will absorb the tea and lemon.
  5. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Then beat in the egg. 
  6. Mix the fruit into the butter, sugar and egg.
  7. Next add the flour and baking powder and stir until everything is well combined.
  8. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf tin and bake in the centre of your oven for around 1 hr. When the cake is ready it will be dark and bronzed on top and a skewer should come out clean.
  9. Allow to cool for around 20 minutes before you take it out of the tin. 

This cake is very moist and will keep well in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you can keep your hands of it that is!

Pide

Move over Pizza: we have a new favourite bread based dinner and it’s called Pide!

Originating in Turkey this traditional bread is stretched thin and baked in a scorching hot oven, leaving the outside crisp and golden and the middle, soft and fluffy. During Ramadan this bread is eaten plain, with just a smattering of poppy seeds and sea salt, at the end of a long day of fasting. 

Alternatively it can be topped with various different things, similar to an Italian pizza, and sold from kiosks on the bustling streets. We like our Pide with a spiced Lamb topping and a sprinkling of pickled onions. Other great toppings include Halloumi or Feta, Spinach and Egg.

To make this as a weeknight supper, we put the dough on at about 4:30 and leave it to rise for an hour whilst we prepare the filling and any salads or dips we decide to have. By 5:30 I’m shaping the Pide, baking them in a hot and they’re on the table by 6. 


Ingredients 

For the dough:

  • 7g instant dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 300g flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 100g water
  • 30g yoghurt
  • 2tbsp olive oil

For the Lamb filling:

  • 500g minced Lamb
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 1/2 tsp sumac
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the pickled onions:

  • 100g white wine vinegar
  • 100g water
  • 50g sugar
  • 5g salt
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 small red onions, sliced 

Method:

  1. Make the dough by putting the flour and yeast into the bowl of your stand mixer. Make a well in the centre and pour in the salt, sugar, water, yoghurt and oil.
  2. Mix on a low speed to combine the ingredients and form a dough.
  3. Continue mixing on a medium speed for 10 minutes until a smooth and elastic dough has formed,
  4. Set aside to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  5. To make the pickled onions, combine the water, vinegar, cloves, sugar and salt in a small pan. Bring to a boil whilst stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar, 
  6. Once the liquid has come to a boil, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Add the onions, stir and set aside to cool.
  7. To make the Lamb filling, heat a large skillet with a small amount of oil. Add the onions and cook slowly until they start to caramelise.
  8. Add to this the Lamb and the ground spices. Turn up the heat to brown the meat.
  9. Then add the garlic and tomatoes. Add a little water if the mixture looks dry and cook on a low heat for approximately 15 minutes until the tomatoes start to break down.
  10. Season to taste and set aside to cool while you wait for the dough.
  11. Preheat your oven to its highest setting, prepare your baking tray by dusting it with flour.
  12. When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured work surface and divide into 4 equal portions.
  13. Shape each piece of dough into a long oval shape by stretching it with your hands. Place onto the baking sheet and spread the Lamb evenly across each Pide, leaving a 3cm edge all the way around.
  14. Fold the edge over the Lamb, pinching it at either end to make a point, and pinching all along the edges with your finger and thumb as you would to crimp a pie edge.
  15. Brush the edge of the Pide with a little olive oil.
  16. Bake in a hot oven for approximately 10-15 minutes, turning half way to ensure an even colour.
  17. The Pide are done when the dough has cooked underneath, the lamb is sizzling and the edges are golden.
  18. Serve immediately with the pickled onions on top.



Persian Love Cake

Pistachios, Cardomom and Rose Water are probably some of my favourite ingredients to bake with. This may have something to do with my love for middle eastern food. I find it very fitting then, that this cake is called a Love cake. The exact origins of this cake are unknown, and there are countless different recipes under this name. The main ingredients of this cake have been used in Iran and the area which used to be the Persian Empired for thousands of years, not only because they are delicious and fragrant, but also for their medicinal properties. 

According to folklore, this cake was first baked as a romantic gesture for a prince. Quite appropriately then, it has been a very popular choice for weddings for a couple of years now. I even baked it myself for my best friends wedding! 

For this bake, I’ve used a silicon mini cake pan. It gives really neat, rectangular cakes instead of the usual round muffin shape. The advantage of using a mini cake mould is that you don’t have to worry about portioning the cake before you serve. Also, everyone gets to enjoy the chewy, caramelised edge which forms whilst baking. The quantities on this recipe will yield approximately 18 mini cakes, but will happily fill an 8″ cake tin. I would not recommend trying to make this cake too deep, as the recipe is only 50% cake flour which means it has a really delicate crumb structure, and although delicious and light, is also prone to sinking.


Ingredients 

  • 200g Sugar
  • 200g butter
  • 150g pistachios (shells removed)
  • 150g plain flour
  • 5g baking powder
  • 1 tbsp rose water
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 Cardomom pods
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 50g double cream
  • Dried rose petals to decorate 
  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.
  2. Grease your silicone muffin pan with a little butter and dust with flour.
  3. Place your pistachios and Cardomom pods in a food processor and blitz as finely as you can. Add to this the flour and baking powder and pulse until combined.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar in a large mix no bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer.
  5. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the rosewater.
  6. Beat the dry ingredients into the wet.
  7. Fill each cell of the muffin pan with the batter until it is 2/3 full.
  8. Bake on the middle tray of your oven for approximately 20 minutes, turning the tray around after 15 minutes to ensure even colouring. When baked, the cakes should be lightly golden on top and springy. To check for raw batter, insert a clean metal skewer into the middle.
  9. Allow the cakes to cool in the muffin pan for 5 minutes, then gently remove. Sprinkle the cakes with a little extra rose water if you really want to intensify the floral scent. 
  10. While the cakes cool, make your ganache by heating the cream and pouring it over the white chocolate. Stir until all the lumps have melted. Set aside to cool to a spreadable temperature.
  11. When the ganache is the right consistency and the cakes have cooled, spread a little chocolate over the top of each cake and top with rose petals, chopped pistachios and any other pretty additions you have in your kitchen. I’ve used freeze dried raspberry pieces.