21 Dec

coriander jar

The recipe has been in my diary since the summer, when I re-read Laurie Colwin’s “More Home Cooking”. Her food is down-to-earth and her stories gently funny; I liked the one on what to feed a jetlagged friend (something salty so they drink lots of water). The image that really stuck with me though was that of her sister (maybe? the book is still in the south of France) caught guiltily eating this spice mix, dukkah, out of the jar with a spoon.

Now eating Nutella by the spoonful, that I understand. But a mix of nuts and seeds, cumin, coriander and cinnamon? Surely that would be too dry, too strong?

Talking with a friend the other day – she is on the kitchen stool with a glass of wine, I am testing the recipe, blending the toasted spices and nuts, stopping and starting around the conversation – we realise that much as ex-smokers tend to be the most vehemently anti-smoking, people that have had issues with eating disorders tend to be largely impatient  with others’ dietary requirements, intolerances, particular preferences. She says she is gluten-free now, last week it was lactose. He only ate half the piece of cheesecake, claimed he was getting love handles. Obviously I know that there are medically diagnosed problems, food allergies. I know that. She knows that. Nonetheless as if we are trying to distance ourselves from our past, our obsessions, we are the most judgemental.

Smell that. I open the lid of the food processor, releasing a toasty cinnamon air. Good right?

But when walls are broken down, when someone admits to suffering, to have suffered from disordered eating, it is amazing how quickly others will respond with me too! Without that kinship, it would be admitting to weakness, to vanity, to a preoccupation with the self in a world of much more tangible problems.

We each dip a finger to taste the crumbly rubble, not quite a powder. Oooh.  We taste it again. It is like earth and fire, full of warmth.

cinnamon, cumin and pepper jars

It isn’t about being thin or pretty but feeling full or empty. From the beginning of university until not so long ago, I struggled with food. Push and pull. I ate my feelings, as everyone does occasionally. It went from once a month to almost every day, when I could count the ‘good days’ (tuna and rye crackers) one hand in that month.

We try it on some sourdough, spread with honey and goat’s cheese and topped with a baker’s pinch of dukkah (all fingers at once, not just finger and thumb). That will be breakfast and snacks for the next two days until the loaf runs out.

And then, slowly, sometime in the last year and a half it faded towards the horizon. It stopped being ‘I am’ this thing, this disorder that defines me, and became ‘I have’ and ‘I used to have’. I can feel its imprint on bad days, a worn pathway, a feeling of too much too full too frantic. Asked to describe it once, I said that when anxious I felt a balloon inflating in my chest and the only way to remove it was to fill myself up until I was a sack of concrete.

Now I remember how to feel physically hungry, not just emotionally empty. My feelings are not always in check – nor should they be – and sometimes it surprises me the forged link of hunger/sadness. Two days ago I finished class in a terribe mood, sure that everyone hated me, inexplicably miserable. Then, wait, I realised, I had been too busy to eat lunch. All I needed to right my self-esteem was a quick sandwich of baguette, cured ham and salad, with a sprinkle of more dukkah. (I ‘borrowed’ some from the jar in my handbag I was giving away as a gift. Sorry Jen!)

Where am I going with this? For one, more people than you would think will own up to those moments in the kitchen at midnight, guiltily nursing that spoon, if only you know how to ask the question. It is a relief to say, me too. Hopefully this does not read as melodramatic or self-centred. I just know that a few years ago I would have loved to know someone with the same experience, someone who made it out the other side. I would have felt less ashamed.

And secondly, this spice mix, dip, topping, whichever, is my favourite thing I have made all year. It is redolent with spices, savoury and sweet, salty. Hot with black pepper but tempered with the hazelnuts and sesame seeds, so that it can be used in generous spoonfuls rather than pinches. Of course, when I googled it I discovered it has been fashionable in the food world for at least a decade now, in all of my favourite blogs: 101 Cookbooks, Smitten Kitchen and now in David Lebovitz’s new book. And more importantly, in Egypt for centuries: street vendors serve cones of dukkah, or duqqa, with bread and olive oil for dipping. I cannot wait to serve it over boiled eggs, potatoes, soups, avocado toast… My flatmate makes home-made fermented-milk yoghurt which is incredible with dukkah and honey. I think Laurie Colwin would approve.

hazelnuts sesame and salt


Friends and family in the near vicinity, you may be getting a jar of this for Christmas. For those of you far away, I won’t risk posting sachets of mysterious powder, so you will have to make your own. This makes a generous quantity, three jam jars full, or many spice jars (save empty ones from the supermarket for your presents). You won’t regret making a big batch, especially if you go to the trouble of buying coriander and cumin seeds, might as well use them. Adjust to taste: add more nuts for a milder flavour, more pepper for more heat. Enjoy on everything.

115g ( 1 cup) hazelnuts

150g (1 cup) sesame seeds

15g (3 tbs) cumin seeds

20g (1/4 cup) coriander seeds

15g (1 1/2 tbs) black peppercorns

15g (1 tbs + 1 tsp) coarse sea salt

12g (2 tbs) ground cinnamon

Toast the nuts / seeds / spices one kind at a time in a dry frying pan. Shake it every now and then to cook evenly. When they smell toasty, tip into food processor and do the next lot. (If you want to skin hazelnuts, tip them still hot into a tea towel and rub firmly to remove skins.) Add the salt and cinnamon, no need to toast, and blend everything to a rubble, not too fine a powder. My food processor does not do very well with the peppercorns so I crush them roughly first with a makeshift mortar and pestle: rolling pin and mug.)

Divide into jars. Eat on everything.

121 Responses to “dukkah”

  1. le coyote December 21, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing this. The recipe, the writing, the jar, the drawings, the story.

    • Frances December 22, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

      thank-you my love! merry christmas!

  2. howtobreakbad January 21, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

    Beautiful. All of it. Thanks for sharing x

  3. parthasadhukhan January 21, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    You are the first food blogger with sketches. There is no limit to creativity in blogging

    • Frances January 22, 2015 at 9:31 am #

      Thanks! Though I have to admit that I was inspired by Lobstersquad – check them out, their drawings are whimsical and lovely.

  4. mcbarlow5 January 21, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

    Having had an eating disorder, I had never before thought of its connection to my being judgmental of others’ alleged food allergies and special needs. Thanks for making the connection for me. Great post!

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

      Hope it helped! Thanks!

  5. Stuart M. Perkins January 21, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    This was great!

  6. yummyinsidemytummy January 21, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

    Sounds very interesting

  7. Rae January 21, 2015 at 7:08 pm #

    Love the water colors, did you do them?

    • Frances January 22, 2015 at 9:30 am #

      I did, yes! Glad you like them.

  8. kirizar January 21, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    Dukkah sounds wonderful. I am reminded of the first time I tried Zatar–a Middle Eastern rub containing Sumac of all things. I can identify with the emotional eating issue. I was surprised to learn later in life that you aren’t actually supposed to eat until full. I had always eaten until the hunger was gone. I still struggle not to ‘eat until satisfied’ because sometimes, no amount can satisfy.

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

      I love za’atar! Really good on flatbread! And yes, ‘satisfied’ is often a mental rather than a physical state.

  9. thereasonablecook January 22, 2015 at 2:41 am #

    Thank you for writing so eloquently about an emotional and difficult topic. And the drawings are beautiful!

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

      Thank-you, really.

  10. karifrances January 22, 2015 at 2:47 am #

    Thank you for your thoughts! And congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

    I can so relate to the impatience while recovering from an eating disorder. For me it was an irritation like this: You don’t have to eat that cake, but I do?! That’s not fair. We should all have to eat it, if I have to.

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

      Impatience is about right – I’m still not there yet!

  11. abedaydin January 22, 2015 at 3:08 am #

    Im so hungry right now 😂.

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

      🙂 hope you found something delicious to eat!

  12. vinantimistry January 22, 2015 at 3:53 am #

    I love that how you paint instead of taking pictures !!!
    I have to admit I eat my feelings too….. And winter doesn’t help the situation.

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

      Thanks! Bring on the spring!

  13. PrincessLacey123 January 22, 2015 at 3:54 am #

    Wonderful post!

  14. Muskan Kapoor January 22, 2015 at 5:07 am #


  15. everyaroma January 22, 2015 at 5:15 am #

    I am surely going to try this one out
    Thank you 😊

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

      Do! let me know how it goes…

  16. everyaroma January 22, 2015 at 5:15 am #

    Reblogged this on Welcome!!! and commented:
    Found everything interesting
    The recipe, the story all if it

  17. nicolerigets January 22, 2015 at 7:37 am #

    This was a joy to read… there’s so much warmth in it.
    Laurie Colwin befriended me in her stories and recipes. Every time I make toast I use my broiler, and I remember how much I loved her storytelling, and why I should adopt new ideas.
    David Lebovitz is another favorite of mine. His sense of humour keeps me laughing as I shop and cook… and I know he’d approve of me reaching for a midnight chocolate snack. 🙂

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

      I love David Lebovitz – he is very down to earth and honest about Paris. His recipes are great too – have you tried the caramel icecream?

      • nicolerigets January 29, 2015 at 4:39 am #

        Not yet… but I intend to.

  18. umairashrafi January 22, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    Reblogged this on Umair Aziz Ashrafi.

  19. apkfrog January 22, 2015 at 10:03 am #

    Thank you
    Fantastic Blog
    Good luck

  20. johnberk January 22, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    I know what you are talking about. I have been there myself. Sometimes, it is a big struggle to not eat. I suffered a lot about it. But there are solutions. And if you really don’t want to continue, you should reach for them.

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

      Hope you are well now! Thanks.

  21. scrumptiouseducationalbytes January 22, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    Wonderful post!

  22. scrumptiouseducationalbytes January 22, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    Nice post!


  23. kumargeeta January 22, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

    recipes with sketches, good idea.

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

      Thanks! Check out They Draw and Cook for more sketched recipes.

  24. CecilianToday January 22, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    Reblogged this on I'mpossible Hope-r.

  25. toriortega January 22, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

    Beautiful post!

  26. edgarsandovalr January 22, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    I need eat now! I am hungry

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

      Hope you made something good to eat!

  27. pax January 22, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    Madhur Jaffrey has a recipe for Dukkah in one of her cookbooks (it also contains a wonderful recipe for Moroccan stew with eggplant, goat and spiced with cinnamon) which is how I learnt of it over 10 years ago. Hers uses 1.5C of coriander seed and no cinnamon. I’m going to have to try your variation

    I don’t want to be mean except as an eating disordered ex smoker I take issue with the idea I’m being judgemental of either and I couldn’t find an email address I could send this to.

    When I smoked I hated the smell of cigarettes, the way the waft of smoke clung to the walls with overtures of eau d’ dirty ashtray, and it still bothers me though I don’t go around judging people because they smell of freshly smoked cigarettes. Not all ex-smokers are nazi’s about it.

    Similarly for food. I used weigh 45kg more than I do now, but my eating disorder didn’t surface until after I quit smoking. When you’re overweight like I was who’s going to notice a kilo or two if you enjoyed one too many slices of bread with a tangy cheddar as a way to stuff those feelings down? No one.

    People are judgemental when they lack the ability to empathize with the suffering they see. That gluten/lactose guy is trying to find a way to not suffer. So is cheesecake guy. We’re all trying to find a way distract ourselves from our pain and when you start to see the world from that perspective you can’t help but feel compassionate. Me? I’m still trying to find a way to keep every morsel down (I’ve been bulimic for a couple years now) even though I’m keenly aware that at it’s root I’m trying to distract myself from my feelings, but I still can’t find a better way to cope.

    • Frances January 22, 2015 at 11:46 pm #

      Hi! Thank-you for your thoughtful reply. You are not being mean at all, it is a perfectly validly point.

      I should have chosen my words more carefully, perhaps “judgemental” was not right. What my friend and I tried to express was that we personally tended to be irrationally impatient with others who made demands about food – demands which are certainly justified in the case of allergies and intolerances. Even though I did recognise myself in them, I found myself being outwardly dismissive instead of empathetic, as if that was a way of distancing myself, pretending that I had never had any problems with eating. I try not to do this any more – I know it is wrong!

      I hope that helps clear things up for you, and I am sorry to have offended you. Good luck – it sounds like you have fought quite a few demons.

      (If you wanted to discuss further: frances.m.leech (at) gmail.com)

  28. drsnoopfrog January 22, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

    Beautiful. I was raised in a home where dukka and za’atar were staple items, much like pb&j. I now find myself doing the same with my little monster. Thank you for generously sharing.

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

      Thank-you! I will have to make za’atar next…

  29. irunintotrees January 23, 2015 at 5:24 am #

    mmm, I will have to try that sometime 🙂 great post

  30. mommy is busy January 23, 2015 at 5:54 am #

    This is tha bomb! Thanks for sharing along with the fab illustrations!

  31. AMBS Solutions (@AMBSsolutions) January 23, 2015 at 8:10 am #

    nicely done illustrations : ) it really covers your recipe and feel well

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

      Thank-you, I appreciate it!

  32. urbanmasai January 23, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    This sounds amazing. I had carrot soup with almond dakkah on holiday recentlty. Loved it. I will definately try your hazelnut version 🙂

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

      Ooooh. I will have to try that, thanks!

  33. Dreaming In Summer January 23, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

    Hey guys,
    I am a new Lifestyle blogger and post frequently, I would love it if you came and checked it out 🙂 https://dreaminginsummer.wordpress.com/
    Peace Out x
    Dreaming In Summer ♥

  34. uzma humayun January 23, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

    Nice post.

  35. Bexter January 23, 2015 at 10:53 pm #

    Those watercolours are so cute! And I will most definitely be giving that recipe a whizz!!

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

      Thank-you! Literally “a whizz” in the blender 🙂

  36. Luptuous Life January 24, 2015 at 10:23 am #

    Great post! And I LOVE dukka! I usually buy mine from arabic spice shops but I think I’m going to give your recipe a try. ^.^

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

      Do! It makes the kitchen smells amazing.

  37. siddhu95 January 24, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    Nice drawing

  38. apkfrog January 24, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    Thank you
    Fantastic Blog
    Good luck

  39. Trendingon January 24, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

    Reblogged this on Trending On.

  40. dayspringacres January 25, 2015 at 1:05 am #

    Reblogged this on Adventures in Learning New Skills.

  41. ouidepuis1 January 25, 2015 at 6:12 am #

    That sounds amazing! And I love how you combined the recipe with your experience. I am going to send this to my friend qho has struggles similar to yours. Hopefully she will recognise herself in some of the things you’ve gone through. But at the very least I know she will enjoy making this, it’s right uo her foodalley 😉

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

      Let me know what she thinks! And thank-you.

  42. evinkurnia January 25, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    Reblogged this on evinkublog.

  43. apkfrog January 25, 2015 at 9:30 am #

    Thank you
    Good luck

  44. makingafoolofthemoon January 25, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Very nice! Thank you for this! I’ve been there in that I struggled to eat, considering I’m in college, I lost quite a bit of weight. But it was still harder to bear for me I guess to hear from people who have never been through this.

  45. Donkey Whisperer Farm, LLC January 25, 2015 at 4:08 pm #


  46. insightsofawallflower January 25, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    Sounds lovely!

  47. happygourmand January 26, 2015 at 6:16 am #

    You mention your flatmate makes homemade fermented milk yogurt… I’d love to see that recipe in a future post!
    Beautiful work – thank you.

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

      I will ask her the name of it! A bit like a starter for sourdough, she brought back some microbes from her travels. Everyday you remove the yoghurt – which is quite thin and sour – and top it up with fresh milk.

  48. amommasview January 26, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    Beautiful post. Great on so many levels! Thank you so much for sharing all of this!

    • Frances January 28, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

      Thanks! Glad you liked it.

  49. emmalehess January 26, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    This was so good

  50. apkfrog January 27, 2015 at 2:27 am #

    Thank you
    Good luck
    My Blog

  51. ladykhadijaabiriyaidiamindada0 January 27, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    Reblogged this on ladykhadijaabiriyaidiamindada0's Blog.

  52. rahul pal January 28, 2015 at 6:37 am #

    Reblogged this on rahul01031993's Blog.

  53. bilalfarooqui786 January 28, 2015 at 7:48 am #


  54. lilypup January 29, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

    Thanks for this. I can identify. http://lilypupslife.wordpress.com

  55. www.allfindout.com January 29, 2015 at 9:02 pm #

    Thank you 🙂 🙂 🙂

  56. Beth Marsh January 30, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

    Absolutely love your drawings!! So very cute and personal. A lovely read 🙂

    • Frances January 30, 2015 at 11:18 pm #

      Thank-you my dear!

  57. Katie Grace Bui January 31, 2015 at 8:52 am #

    Thanks for this essay. I’ve suffered from eating disorders for about three years and I still fight it today, though it’s much better now than before. I related to a lot of the things you said and there was something comforting in seeing that I wasn’t alone. I mean, I don’t turn to Google or WordPress for these kind of deep-seated emotional things. But I discovered this post on the Freshly Pressed page and it made me feel kind of… safe? Not sure what word can encapsulate what I’m feeling. Just, thank you.

    • Frances January 31, 2015 at 9:56 am #

      I am happy something clicked with you. Feeling alone is the hardest part. xxx

  58. trulyaddia February 1, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    wow love the illustrations! thanks for sharing, its great to see something different in blogs 🙂

    • Frances February 2, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

      Hi! Thanks for visiting! If you like this, you should check out They Draw and Cook for tons of illustrated recipes!

      • trulyaddia February 3, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

        oh wow, i just visited the website this is really interesting, thanks for sharing! i love artsy stuff and combined with cooking – another thing i love – wow!! i hope you share your work there too 🙂

  59. mark83065 February 2, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

    Maybe less photo work or art would help you deliver a more clear message.

  60. dasophstah February 8, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    beautiful… the way you meld the story with the spice; it’s impossible to pull away my gaze. genuinely, thank you for this. xx

    • Frances February 8, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

      Thank-you! I really appreciate it. xx

  61. M E Cheshier February 23, 2015 at 7:17 pm #

    Wow, what a great recipe! There are many of my favorite spices. I will definitely give it a try.

    • Frances February 23, 2015 at 10:28 pm #

      Thanks! Let me know how it turns out!

      • M E Cheshier February 24, 2015 at 1:28 am #

        I will! If I had all the ingredients I would make it today!

  62. Avril February 24, 2015 at 10:30 pm #

    Dukkah– amazingly similar, etymologically, to dukha–suffering in Buddhism. Beautiful posting.

    • Frances February 25, 2015 at 1:05 am #

      Hmmm… I will be pondering that!

  63. gloomishmel9 March 7, 2015 at 11:38 pm #

    Reblogged this on gloomishmel and commented:
    Found good ideas!

  64. salmaabdullah March 10, 2015 at 1:08 am #

    hi its fun to see some one who use the same i mean sketches for his food diary do check mine i do the same

  65. intiisar April 9, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    the illustration idea is so creative,i ll try the recipe someday for sure!!

    • Frances April 10, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

      Thanks! You should – the frosting is addictive!

  66. Cathryn G. Gibson April 16, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

    Reblogged this on Daybreakfarm's Blog.

  67. ahealthyintervention May 12, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

    Love this blog post. It definitely has parts I can relate to.
    I have recently just started a food blog. Would you mind taking a look? I would really appreciate it. Thank you 🙂

    • Frances May 13, 2015 at 10:28 am #

      Since you asked so nicely, I will! 🙂


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    […] Tangerine Drawins I love Dukkah and can’t wait to try this recipe. But there is more to this text than just a recipe… […]

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  3. NOPI’s burrata with peaches and coriander seeds | tangerine drawings - September 15, 2015

    […] moment of quiet as we each took a bite of our first course, burrata again, seasoned with dukkah, and served with sliced peaches à la […]

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