HAKE WITH A DUKKA CRUST

Dukka is an Egyptian spice blend comprising toasted nuts and seeds, the combination of which varies depending on the cook. The ingredients are ground together until the texture is that of a coarse powder.

I first encountered dukka, not in Egypt, but in the Willunga farmer’s market in MacLaren Vale, South Australia during Tasting Australia 2005. Dukka seems to have insinuated itself into the Aussie food culture and sharing a crusty loaf of fresh bread, dipped in extra virgin olive oil, then in dukka, over a bottle or two of good wine is as good a way of whiling away an afternoon as I know.

The hake recipe was an experiment that worked, at least for me and my lunch guests. I served it with a butternut squash risotto and a green salad of French beans, mangetout, garden peas, red onion and rocket in an olive oil and tarragon vinegar dressing – an adaptation of a recipe I found in Yolam Ottolengi’s superb book ‘Plenty’.

In Australia it’s easy to buy dukka but I haven’t found it in Dublin. My recipe is still ‘work in progress’. This the best so far.

For the dukka

2 tablespoons whole hazelnuts

2 tablespoons macadamia or brazil nuts

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Small pinch ground dried chillis (optional)

Small pinch ground cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 200 degs. C. Arrange nuts and sunflower seeds in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast for 10 minutes and remove. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, roast sesame, cumin and coriander seeds, stirring often, for 7-8 minutes or until sesame seeds are golden brown. Allow cool. Pulse all dukka ingredients in a food processor or an electric coffee/spice grinder until finely ground – but do not grind to a paste. Apparently dukka can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a couple of weeks but in my opinion, it is best made and used fresh.

For the hake

4 fillets hake, skinned

Small glass of dry white wine

Small knob of butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon

Preheat the oven to 200 degs. C. Arrange the hake fillets, side by side, in a flat dish. Pour the wine around the fillets, making sure that the tops of the fillets are well above the level of the liquid. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the fillets, plus a few flakes of butter. Add a squeeze of lemon. Bake in oven for 10 minutes. If necessary, pour off some of the liquid. Crust the fillets with the dukka and return to oven for a further 10 minutes.

Other white fish, cod, haddock, monkfish, pollock etc would work just as well. If using flatfish, keep the liquid level low. If the top of the fish is soaked in the liquid the dukka crust will go soggy.