Sunday, 10 August 2008

A Middle Eastern afternoon 1: Quail eggs with fresh herbs and hazelnut dukkah

For the longest time I've been meaning to make dukkah, the chickpea or hazelnut, sesame and spice mix originally from Egypt that has enjoyed roaring success in the Antipodes the last couple of years. I even brought some hazelnuts back from Turkey last summer for this very purpose!But somehow I just hadn't got round to it--until now.

There are recipes for dukkah all over the net if you care to look (101 Cookbooks has a version from The Spicy Food Lover's Bible that I'm planning on trying next). Nigel also has one in his The 30 Minute Cook, which he cheerfully admits nicking from Claudia's The New Book of Middle Eastern Cooking. That book has been in print since the 60s (my 2nd revised edition was published in 1986!), so I'm not too sure why the "sudden" interest, but such are the vagaries of the cooking world, I suppose.

Anyway, I got the hazelnut dukkah recipe below from Australia's own Stephanie Alexander, who is right up there in my foodie hall of fame and the author of many of the Middle Eastern recipes on Cuisine.

I was looking for some unusual cold meze-type dishes for the girls, who were coming over for some Middle Eastern cooking at my non-air conditioned flat on a swelteringly hot summer's day. These scrummy little eggs with dukkah looked like a good bet because they would be ready in a flash--especially as I had pre-roasted hazelnuts (g), leaving the egg-peeling as the only vaguely time-consuming element--and they could be cooked ahead of time and kept in the fridge till the appointed hour. In the end I wasn't quite that organized, and had to delegate the egg peeling and herb chopping to my dear friends after they arrived. But I reckon that only added to the dish's appeal (g).

I cooked my eggs a little differently from the method in the original recipe (using a technique I picked up from Heather at 101 Cookbooks), and substituted a little cumin seed for some of the coriander seed (mainly because I didn't have enough of the former, but also knowing that the latter is often included in dukkah). I added some of the dukkah mix to the herbs as per the OR, but thought it would be more fun to dip the eggs in the nutty mixture ourselves, hence the little dish you see in the photo above.

As quail eggs are very small, I would count on about 4-5 per person. You might want to scale up the eggs accordingly. You will have plenty of dukkah and herbs (I halved the amount of herbs below and still had some left over), so there's probably no need to scale either of these up unless you're going to more than triple the recipe.

I completed our little snack with Claudia's luscious boiled carrot dip (which the girls also raved about) and some tortillas warmed up in the microwave. That left plenty of room for the Gulf prawn balls in tomato-tamarind sauce that was to be the headline act of the day. More on that shortly...

Quail eggs with fresh herbs and hazelnut dukkah

12 quail eggs or 4 bantam eggs
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped chives [S: spring onions will also work]
1 tsp chopped mint
1 clove garlic

(This will make more than is needed for this dish but the rest can be stored in a screw-top jar. It is difficult to make much less)

25g hazelnuts
50g sesame seeds
20g coriander seeds
5g cumin seeds
sea salt

Bring eggs to a gentle boil in a saucepan of lightly salted water, turn off the heat and cover for 5 minutes (quail eggs) or 7 minutes (bantam eggs). Drain and immediately crumple the shells of the quail eggs with light pressure of your hands. Tap the shells of the bantam eggs to allow air to get in under the membrane. This makes the eggs easier to shell later on. Leave to cool.

Mix the chopped herbs together. Chop the garlic very finely and mix with the herbs.

To make dukkah
Heat oven to 180C and roast the hazelnuts until pale golden. Rub in a clean tea-towel to remove most of the brown skins. Chop coarsely or process for a few seconds only and tip into a bowl.

In a small non-stick frying pan, toast the sesame seeds, stirring with a wooden spoon until golden. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and grind just a little. Tip the crushed seeds into the bowl with the hazelnuts.

Wipe out the pan and dry-toast the coriander seeds. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and grind coarsely. Combine with sesame seeds and hazelnuts. Repeat with the cumin seeds.

Mix half of the seed-nut mixture with the herb and garlic mixture. Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Store remaining dukkah in a screw-top jar for another day.

Peel the eggs. (Quail eggs have a very tough membrane under the shell so be patient. Once you have pierced this membrane the shell will peel away very easily). Brush the eggs with the olive oil and halve lengthwise. Brush the cut side of the eggs with a little olive oil to prevent the surface from drying. Roll the eggs thickly in the herb and seed mixture and arrange on a shallow plate.



Malaka said...

Thank you for such a tasty food!
I and Micky very much enjoyed the middle eastern cooking lesson.
Hope to see you at a vetenamise restaurant near future!

from Malaka

Saffron said...

Hi Malaka,

It was a great afternoon, wasn't it. We should do it again when the weather cools down a bit (g).

I checked out the Vietnamese place yesterday and it's a good one!!