We had one of those odd language issues this week at the Artisan Baker, where we go every Saturday morning to buy baguettes, a pain rustique or campagne, and a couple of tarts for dessert – our weekend treat. Often we get tart citron…Bernard Hoff is a French baker living in Wagga who makes real French goodies and things don’t get much better than a lemon tart made with lemons that were probably on the tree that morning! But we’ve been branching out recently, sampling the frangipane-style tarts that he also makes – this week, Lisa got raspberry and Dan had apricot. This last one was the one that caused the problem.
Bernard is French and so are some of his staff. Their English is mediocre, but they weren’t the ones challenged this week. The rest of his staff are Australian. Their English is perfect, as is ours. We just speak a different English. So, Lisa says we want one apricot tart. Canadians and Americans probably read that sentence as we were asking for an a-pricot (short a as in Adam) tart. Australians probably read that Dan wanted an ay-pricot tart (long a as in Aaron). It was a bit busy in Bernard’s…with two other customers in the little industrial space where he has been selling his wondrous goods* it becomes a challenge to hear well; so the young woman behind the counter (probably a student learning to bake) gets us an apple tart. We figured out the problem, Lisa tried to pronounce the word correctly (while the staffer laughed!) and finally did our pointing thing, like we do with the French-speaking staff. We got what we wanted [Lisa edit: and next time, Dan will have to settle for whatever he gets!]
And then we went to the farmers market to buy, among other things, dukah. Or dukka. Or maybe it is dukkah. Dukkah is something that we have discovered since moving to Wagga. Not only have we seen it spelled many ways, we’ve also heard it pronounced with a short u (as in duck-a) a long u (as in duke-a) and with differences in where the emphasis is (DUCK a, duke A). But however you say it, dukkah is a wonderful thing! We don’t understand why it took us until now to discover it. We have no idea why Canadians don’t eat it.
Dukah is a dry dip for bread. Or you can put it on salad. Or put it in soup. Or do pretty much whatever you want with it (Dan recently had a ‘burger’ with dukkah on it…more on why those ‘ ’ marks are around the word burger later). And it also seems you can make it however you want.
The origin of dukka seems to be Egyptian (we think). Basic ingredients are spices and nuts and seeds, but what combination is extremely variable. We currently have three in the pantry. The simplest one is just a blend of sesame seed, coriander seed, cumin seed, and some salt and pepper. It is very good. The second is more complex and probably more traditional. It has a base of almond meal and hazelnut meal with coriander and cumin and sesame. Number three adds things like poppyseeds and paprika and turmeric. It is our favourite (and made here in Wagga). According to the person who made #2, there is only supposed to be one nut, not two, in a real dukkah and that should be cashew. But it seems like you could really put anything you want in it if you make it yourself (which we will get around to doing some day. It can’t be that hard. Wader…after you taste it, you’ll probably start making it!)
So what do we do with dukka? Dip some bread into olive oil, then into the dukah and enjoy. Why it isn’t a universal treat, we have no idea but we’re going to work on that.
The one we like most is made at Magpies Nest, a restaurant by the uni. They also pickle their own olives, make their own chardonnay, and sell amazing carrot poppyseed bread that we think is too good on its own to eat with the dukkah. So their fare is the basis of a lot of meals in our house…it doesn’t get much better than a meal based around interesting local ingredients, made by people who just love the food they are preparing and selling you – so Bernard’s bread, dipped in Wollundry Grove oil, and some Magpies Nest dukkah, a bowl of Magpies Olives, a salad, some local wine and cheese…a common, simple, and spectacular meal in our house.
And now back to that burger. The lunch special at Thirsty Crow one day last week was a burger – the special board said dukkah-crusted lamb with beetroot relish and fetta (another Aussie oddity, feta is spelled with 2 t’s here). Dan (and a work colleague that he was dining with) orders one, expecting a nice juicy pattie of lamb mince (ground lamb for all the North Americans); instead, in between the top and bottom of his burger bun is a pile of lamb cubes resembling souvlaki. Odd. And hard to eat… He ended up just jettisoning the top half of the bun and going at the rest with a knife and fork. Delicious, but would have made more sense in a pita.
So, that’s the story of dukka. Maybe we’ll look into starting a business producing and selling it for the North American market; we’ll have our own dukka dynasty (pronounced dine-asty by North Americans…din-asty by the Australian A&E television network).* As of Wednesday, 17 October, Bernard will have a new home, closer to our house and in a more retail-y area as opposed to in a corner of the local bus garages. Yay!