Crispy almonds and cashews with pops of spices and seeds – these Middle Eastern spiced nuts are dangerously good. The perfect match to balance December’s sweet extravaganza and citrus fruits.
Admission: I virtually never leave snacks out. In fact, I never have – ever since I moved out on my own.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Believe me, it works.
That said, I’m not big on snacks in general. I rarely keep much of it even in cupboards or drawers. I occasionally make salted almonds, which last a week. And I usually keep a bar of Lindt chocolate, of the sort where a single square goes a long way in satisfying any sweet tooth after dinner, before it’s quickly placed back into its place in the drawer.
A nutty surplus
One of the great joys of living in Istanbul, is shopping at Mısır Çarşısı, the Egyptian spice market located by the shores of the Golden Horn, just across from the Galata Tower. It’s just up the road from where I live – a short bus ride or a 40 minute walk.
I go there often to stock up on supplies. Freshly delivered, the spices still not fully dried, the quality cannot be questioned – at least if you know your vendors well. And the prices can’t be beat – and while the price per kilo for the small bags at the supermarkets are outrageous, at the spice market, you won’t be penalised for buying small amounts, but often.
Except, corona has mostly kept me away from the hustle and bustle of the tiny shops of the spice market.
Luckily, many of the same shops have their own webshops. In fact, what started out as single stalls in the spice market, have in many instances become huge companies who deliver spices and other products to supermarkets and the Horeca industry at large.
So for most of 2020, I’ve resorted to ordering online. The issue? The quantities aren’t as flexible. And the price per kilo isn’t the same, regardless of quality.
So, I’m buying my nuts in quantities of a kilo. Wanting to keep a minimum of hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, cashew nuts and pistachios at all times for my cooking, it’s safe to say there’s a glut of nuts in my kitchen cupboards.
I can’t say I dislike it.
Middle Eastern spiced nuts
While nuts, stored correctly, can keep for q uite a while, a good way of making sure there is a bit of turnover in the nut department at home, is making roasted, spiced nuts.
The idea is of course not novel – in fact it’s everywhere. But it was a particular recipe in the incredible cookbook Falastin by Sami Tamini (of Ottolenghi fame) and Tara Wigley which brought it into my kitchen. In the chapter of snacks and condiments, they offer up a more-ish looking recipe for spiced nuts.
(The book, by the way, I dare say is a requisite of your cookbook shelves if you like Middle Eastern cooking and keep more than a few cookbooks.)
I wanted a different flavour profile, however, more inspired by dukkah, the Egyptian spice mix and condiment all in one. It’s heavy on the cumin and coriander – and it can hardly get more Middle Eastern than that, right? I stayed true to Tamimi and Wigley’s idea of adding a little sweetness, a touch of heat and some seeds, for that glorious crunch.
I’m pleased to confirm it’s as delicious as it sounds – and more!
Not just are the nuts delicious – the little pops of whole spices and seeds makes it so more-ish it’s hard to stop. And I have to say it’s perfect at this time of year (December at time of writing), a genius way to counterbalance the abundance of sweetness of the season’s offerings. The touch of honey and chili gives an extra wintery comfort, too.
How to make Middle Eastern spiced nuts
Middle Eastern spiced nuts are super easy to make. After gently toasting the spices, add the remaining flavourings. After that, all you need to do is give it a quick boil before mixing in the nuts and seeds, tipping it onto a prepared baking sheet and leaving the rest of the job to the oven.
In fact, there’s only one hard bit to this recipe: Waiting for it all to cool down after it comes out of the oven, filling the kitchen with the most wonderful spiced scents. The nuts are still a little soft when just out of the oven – and your lips or tongue will probably not forgive you if you bite into them straight away.
After being allowed to cool down, the nuts are all the crispy, earthy goodness you want.
Yields one large or two small serving bowls.
- 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 2 tsp whole coriander seeds
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 40 g (2 Tbsp) honey
- 1 tsp Aleppo pepper (pul biber), or other chili flakes to taste
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 150 g raw almonds (unsalted)
- 150 g raw cashew nuts (unsalted)
- 30 g raw pumpkin seeds
- 20 g raw sunflower seeds
- 2 tsp flaky salt (or 1 tsp table salt)
- Preheat the oven to 160 C (320 F) fan. Place baking parchment on a baking sheet.
- Heat a thick bottomed frying pan (non-stick is good) over a medium heat. Add the cumin and coriander seeds and toast, stirring regularly, until fragrant, around 30 seconds.
- Add the oil, honey and 3 Tbsp water. Mix well and add the Aleppo pepper and turmeric. Mix again and leave to bubble until it starts to thicken, around a minute. Add the nuts and seeds and mix well again. Take off the heat and mix in the salt.
- Spread the nut mixture on the baking parchment. Bake in the middle of the oven until golden, around 15 minutes, but start checking at 12. If your oven roasts unevenly, stir the mixture halfway through.
- Leave to cool completely. Taste a piece or three to check for salt – you may want to add a little more. Break up, put in a suitable container or serving bowl and enjoy! Keep it dry, sealed and at room temperature (or slightly below).