Hazelnut snacks

  
Hazelnuts have been consumed by humans for thousands of years.

I am currently on the Island of Mull in the Hebrides. On the nearby island of Colonsay evidence suggests that local residents were consuming large amounts of the nut in 7000BC.

The Hebrides can often feel very far from civilisation so the fact that people living here enjoyed this tasty snack several millennia before the Babylonian Empire existed blows my mind just a little bit.

Anyway, while we Hebrideans might have harvested the nut from our trees back then, the undisputed champion of hazelnut production today is Turkey, which produced 660,000 tonnes of the nut in 2012.

  
That weight equates to this massive vessel if it were fully loaded. The Seawise Giant is the largest man-made mobile object ever built by the way. That’s a lot of hazelnuts.

  
Anyway, enough of that. I’m craving a martini.

  
If you have some hazelnuts to spare and you fancy a tasty treat, put some in a heatproof dish.

  
Drizzle them in a little oil, sprinkle over some salt and maybe some pepper and/or herbs, then roast them in a pre-heated oven for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the heat. Essentially you want to toast them, not burn them. If they seem slightly soft when you remove them from the oven they will probably harden to a nice crunchy texture as they cool.

  
You could serve them like that as a snack. Once they’re cooler they make a luxurious, warm, salty, crunchy and slightly fatty accompaniment to an ice cold martini.

  

Alternatively, you could go one step further and make something from across the Mediterranean from Turkey: Egyptian Duqqah.

  
Grind it down, season it.

  
Then serve it with bread, good quality oil and maybe some balsamic vinegar.

Dip the bread in the oil then coat it in the duqqah with one hand while you sip your martini with the other.

This is simple and delicious. You can also mix the duqqah with other ingredients such as pepper, ground chickpeas and other ground nuts if you like.

Omnomnom!

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.