Back in my lovely little flat in London, my most favourite place was the conservatory kitchen with its old-school open shelving: great for displaying vintage kitchenalia, not so much for disguising my stage-5 status as a Hoarder of Spices. Yes I need at least two kinds of ras el hanout (one has rose petals!) and an industrial-sized tin of La Chinata’s hot smoked paprika.

I sadly had to re-home most of my collection before moving overseas, and have since been making a mad scramble around Singapore in search of my favourite spice blends. Two of my Middle Eastern favourites, za’atar and dukkah, have proven a tad elusive, so I’ve whipped up my own.

Za’atar is a herbaceous mix of thyme and oregano (and sometimes marjoram) that gets its depth from toasted sesame seeds and a bright lift from the addition of tangy sumac. It’s brilliant sprinkled over homemade hummus or fried eggs, mixed with olive oil for a paste that you can slather over Lebanese bread and, if you’re a Yotam Ottolenghi fan, it features heavily in his recipes from roast chicken to butternut squash.

Dukkah is a textural treat blending nuts such as pistachio, hazelnut or almond  I use macadamia and pistachio with cumin, toasted sesame and coriander seeds for a little kick. Use it to coat lamb cutlets, sprinkle it over salads or soup or bring your bread-and-dip game up a level with a bowl of olive oil and dukkah. Divine.

Here are my versions:




  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 4 tbsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 4 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes


1. Toast your sesame seeds in a pan until golden  do this slowly and gently as they can easily burn.
2. Combine the sesame seeds with the remaining ingredients. If you have the patience, grind the mixture with a mortar and pestle to release some of the sesame oil. Alternatively, give the mixture a quick whiz in a food processor: this method makes the texture a little more uniform.
3. Store in a jar in the fridge  it can keep up to three months, if you manage not to eat it all before then.






  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup pistachios
  • 1/4 cup roasted macadamias, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes


1.  Gently toast your sesame and coriander seeds in a pan until the sesame is golden and the coriander is aromatic.
2. Transfer the sesame and coriander seeds to a food processor, along with the remaining ingredients, to a food processor and pulse the mixture until the nuts are coarsely chopped: you want to combine the ingredients but retain the texture of the nuts, so go slow or you’ll end up with a paste.
3. Transfer to a jar or airtight container: you can store dukkah at room temperature for about a month, but first grab some good bread and olive oil for dipping!



Styling & photography: Selina Altomonte