Kisher Coffee smoked with Mistika – قهوة قشر مبخرة بالمستكة

Kisher
Kisher Coffee,A drink that is not quite a coffee or tea.
For many coffee lovers like me, the rituals that comes in preparation is just as important as the coffee itself.
CUP OF KISHER

Having Kisher Coffee in Yemen is considered as the classic afternoon ritual for many Yemeni households. When Kisher coffee is served, it means socializing with family and guests had started.
Kisher coffee is also good for digesting after a heavy meal, as it is usually accompanied with spices such as cinnamon, and ginger. Sipping and enjoying a long afternoon with either some sweet dessert, or Thamool, (dry salty cookies) is one of the old traditions that Yemenis had kept since forever.
I find it brilliant how Yemenis make it important to produce tasty foods and drinks with minimal waste.
Kisher coffee is one of those brilliant inventions. It is the dry shell of the coffee, which usually is thrown away .The coffee shell has a great –tea like- flavor with less caffeine than coffee and tea combined and provides a very healthy drink since it has so many anti-oxidants (1). Kisher (derived from the word Kishra قشرة (in Arabic language simply means the outer shell or skin.
It is usually brewed with spices such as ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg. Usually for long time like 45 mints or with less amount of time, if desired lighter. While writing this, my mom insisted to explain in this blog that these ingredients are flexible to your taste, some households add ginger only, where some people like it with cinnamon and cardamom and the other stuff. The way my mom do it at home, is adding a little of everything, and let the Kisher brew slowly in the kettle until it turns to golden brown color.

For many, this ritual is considered enough to make your cup of Kisher coffee ready, however, there is also a beautiful ritual that I would like to share with you from my family’s household that we used to do each Ramadan, or whenever we have senior guests since they still like to hold on to old coffee traditions. This ritual is smoking the coffee cups with Mistika.

Mistika

Mistika is a natural gum product from trees(Boswellia sacra) that is also known for flavoring desserts or food. It is also used in producing a pleasant smoky smells when burned with charcoal.
boswellia-sacra-a

Old Yemenis used Mistika in their rituals and prayers in their shrines, at the times; it was for Ilmaqa, the goddess of the Moon. Yemeni Merchants realized how much it was important for the prayers for many temples in Egypt, Ethiopia,and up to Jerusalem. In a route famously named with “Incense Road” طريق اللبان و البخور,Yemeni Merchants traveled and exchanged Mistika with Gold and Silver coins and valued goods from those faraway lands, as it was so much valued in the process of prayers of old times religions.
Today Mistika is burned to make houses smell pleasant, when people receive guests, and even believed to persuade the evil eyes to go away from the household and protect its residents.
This ritual reminds me with Ramadan, a spiritual month that comes every year with so many cooking, and eating rituals.
To smoke the coffee cups with Mistika you will first need to heat the Falss فلس, a block of carved stone on the oven with some charcoal to keep its heat.

FALSS فلس

SMOKING CUPS

When it turns to red and hot, cover it in your grill for a while with the hot charcoal, until you know it maintained its heat. If you do not have Maoqad موقد, you can use your grill too. When Falss turn hot and red it is then ready to start smoking the cups.

First start with putting Mistika pieces on top of the Falss. The Mistika will start burning.
Quickly put the first cup for couple of minutes or until the cup turns into yellow/brown color. This color is actually sticky too. Do not worry, soon when you drink in a coffee this colored layer will dissolve in your coffee and brings a unique smoky taste in your coffee.

SMOKED MISTIKA RESIDUE

First, Remove the first cup and quickly bring the second cup and repeat the process.
Put more Mistika for more smoke and finish up the rest of the cups.


Preparation of Kisher Coffee

Ingredients

Ingredients
¼ tea spoon Ginger powder
½ stick of Cinnamon
2-3 Cardamom seeds
2-3 Cloves
Pinch of nutmeg powder
Kisher (for every 300 ml of water, add ¼ cup of kisher)
Preparation
(There are many ways for grinding and preparing Kisher coffee, some like it to be plain and raw, and some like it to be smoothly grounded to be like powder and mixed with powdered spices all together. There is also a type of Kisher coffee that called Moshahafa coffee قهوة مشهفة that means” gone under heat very quickly” until it turns to golden color. This process brings a toasty sweet taste to your coffee.)
-Add water, sugar, spices and Kisher all together and let brew slowly until it turns to golden color.

Sources:
http://kishr.com/health/
http://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%86

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Dates with Eggs تمر بالبيض

eggs with dates

Dates with eggs might not be your typical Yemeni dish that you would run into in a Shaibani or a Hadramout restaurants. Few families do it, and usually served as a specialty breakfast for recently delivered mothers.
It is believed that dates and eggs have the richest ingredients that would help in providing the baby with the most nutrition’s during their breast feeding phase.
Dates and eggs have dear memories from my childhood. As a kid I would have it in my weekends on a family Friday breakfasts. I used to go with my family to visit my grandma, and my aunt would cook it for us and serve it with mint black tea, and warm freshly made Molawah bread (مُلَوْح)The warm aroma’s of cooked dates with traditional smoked ghee and the mint tea made me stick to my aunt while she was cooking. At the time, my height would only reach the oven knobs, and my presence was a hazard. Somehow, my wanderings around the Kitchen would always end up by me helping her either serving bread, or serve tea cups for everyone before the main dish is served. She really knew how to make the best of my energy. The food was usually served in the middle of a bright room with big windows and bright half mooned frosted glass mosaics on their upper parts )Qamaryaa )قمرية). My grandfather’s house was a traditional one. It had a 50 cm irregular stairs height (1.6 ft), thick walls of stone, almost a hundred years old massive wood entrance door and wonderful views to some of the most grand artifacts of the Rasoliete Kingdom in Yemen (Alrasolyeein Dynasty-(الدولة الرسولية-

Simple yet intricate motives and washed with white plaster is one of the unique endangered architectural styles in Yemen.The flute shape is a Fattimied architectural style that can be seen in Egyptian mosques as well.

Simple yet intricate motives and washed with white plaster is one of the unique endangered architectural styles in Yemen.The flute shape is a Fattimyed architectural style that can be seen in Egyptian mosques as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Mo’tabiaa mosque(مسجد المعتبية) named after Mo’taab the princess, The Ashrafyaa Mosque(مسجد الاشرفية) that was named after king Al-Ashraf,and The Qahira Castle (قلعة القاهرة) are only footsteps from the house, as it was in the heart of the old city of Taiz,and laying under the foot of Saber mountain. This city was surrounded with walls at the time, but sadly huge parts of it are ruined right now, and many new slums started growing within the gated city,using the stones of the original historical walls. It’s a shame that so much destruction had happened to the older city of Taiz. Elder generations recall that the land part of the mosque property(Waqf-وقف) were sort of an “agricultural parks” for the people.They used to grow crops on them, and where places to catch a fresh breathe while having a walk before sunset.
Taiz in 1952

Old Taiz

The Old entrance gate of Old Taiz City

The Old entrance gate of Old Taiz City

Mosques Property -Waqf-Were people's green lush parks

Mosques Property -Waqf-Were people’s green lush parks

The Rasoliete era (1229-1454 A.D) in Yemen was considered one of the brightest (of few) in Yemen’s history. 225 years was the longest time were one entity was able to rule ALL of Yemen, up to Thofar in Oman, and with Taiz it’s Capital.
Arab countries at the times were under two powerfull dynasties,the Abbasides ruling from Baghdad in Iraq,and Fatimmyides,ruling from Egypt.Yemen was shifting its loyalty between both dynasties,and sometimes dividing the country to two or three smaller states,each having their own authority that follows the Khalffiets either in Baghdad or Cairo.
Initially Rasoliete were Kurds who ruled under the umbrella of Abbasside dynasty in Iraq.They came right after the Ayobbides whom,Toran Shah, brother of Saladin Al-Ayobi was one of the famous rulers in Yemen,and whose loyalty was originally for Egypt.He built the Qahira Castle in Taiz.
Stories say that he was the one who designed Taiz, naming it at first “THEE-ODAINA” after his doctors recommended its location for its fresh clear air,and nice moderate weather for him,since he suffered a chronic illness.He also was not happy with his deployment to Yemen after living all his life between Damascus,Cairo,and Baghdad,major glamourous cities at the time.
However,he created a legacy and managed to get out the control of Fattimyeds in Yemen and prepare for Noor Al-Dien Al Rasooli,the first Rasoliete,whom was Kurdish like him,to rule after his life, all of Yemen.

What made Rasolietes era so unique was the government’s interest in education and literature. Every Mosque was designed to include a library and a school (Madrasah-المدرسة) where students would have sessions in Arabic literature, religion, math, and even philosophy.
The spirit of Rasoliete and their passion for education is still in the people of Taiz. It was deeply imbedded in their culture that today it is considered the most literate city in Yemen, and most of intellectual Yemeni women come from there too. Taiz brought the most brilliant minds of the country and it now proudly holds the title of the cultural capital of Yemen.

Later in my college years, I grew a friendship with a Kurdish Iraqi friend, who once in our long talks about native food of our countries, she told me that they also have a meal consisted of dates with eggs, and that it was also served as a specialty food for new moms, or guests!
My astonishment and excitement was more than anyone could believe, as growing up in Yemen, I never knew any of my school piers, or neighbors or closely anyone but my family who knows that meal, except later on in my life, I found my mother in-law knows this recipe too.
Even my dad recalls an adventure trip of his own in 1964 to Aden, when it was still a British colony. He remembers he was in a pick-up car with half-dozen people traveling, and then something happened to the car right before Al-Rahida village (one hour away from Aden) and needed to stop.
In that remote area there was nothing served by the villagers for dinner but eggs and dates so he offered making that dish, who nobody knew it existed.Thirty years later,he met one of those travelers in a complete incident and he reminded him of that dish that he made.Needless to say how much he loved it.

So what is the story behind this one of best hidden secrets of Yemeni food?
Eggs and dates is a common meal in Iraq and Iran.ofcourse it must be, both of these countries are famous of their top quality dates around the world! This meal could found its way through Rasolietes ruling who,as Kurds, came to Yemen with all their customs, and foods. However, as a Yemeni dish, it was flavored and tweaked to fit the Yemeni tasting buds as it’s seasoned with nutmeg and cardamom for extra taste. Families who lived in older neighborhoods in the big Yemeni gated cities must have picked that up, which actually explains why I never met anyone out of my grandparent’s neighborhood who would know it! Stone dish makes an extra flavor to it as it slowly transfers the heat to the dates and builds up a sweet crispy layer at the base of the dish,which I love digging at the end of the meal as an extra treat after a sweet,heart warming meal .

This Recipe is very simple, easy to re arrange the ratio of dates to eggs depending on wther you like it more sweet or savory and calls for three main ingredients; and served with warm bread.

Ingredients:
3 Eggs
2-3 spoons of Butter or clarified ghee
1 cup of seedless Dates
Seasoning:
Salt and pepper, & Cardmom, Nutmeg (if desired)
Ingreditents

-First heat the stone dish and put the butter in until it melts completely.
-Add the dates and start making a purée or until it becomes completely soft and combined together like a dough.
-Make a hole in the center and add the eggs. There are two ways to do it, either by whisking the eggs in a separate dish then pour it to the center or break the eggs directly.
As for me, I prefer the second one, maybe because this is how my aunt used to serve it to us on our Friday visits.

butter

sizzling dates

hole in the dates purea

egg in the dates

Sources
http://alamree.net/alboum-taiz_2.htm
http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/articles/2009/08/19/khorma_tokhme_morgh_dates_and_eggs_recipe/

سلتة Saltaah

Yemen+spaceship +salta

Saltaah seems to me like a dish that dropped out of an Alien’s space ship on Yemen, as I never saw anything similar to it in any were else!

Even the word Saltaah has no specific origin in Arabic. Saltaah, originally is a derived word from the original Salatah سلطة, which means combination of vegetables. Internationally known as Salad. The term Salatah came with the Turkish troops upon their long trials to invade Yemen.Saltaah,however is a combination of vegetables, boiled in a stew and topped with Hilba (mix of Fenugreek seeds and grounded green herbs-Khathawir).Its eaten using bread, and always served in a stone dish. Somehow this term changed from Salataah to Saltaah and was used through years specifically for this meal.

A Few years ago, I learned that there was a famous sad folkloric Turkish song that talks about Turkish soldiers who went to  Yemen but they never came back.

Yemen was a far away land, it would’ve been impossible for them to come home again, if they were still alive. It was sang by the grandma’s who lost their fathers, brothers, and sons for the Ottoman colonial expansions. I would never know about it, until that day when I chit chatted my way out of boredom in transit while waiting for my flight to Istanbul then to Yemen with two nice Turkish people. They were a young girl and her grandfather, who passionately told me about this song, and before I realize, the girl started singing it for me!:)

After some research (Thanks to YouTube) I was able to get it and listen to that lost peace of history.

There are different versions to the story of Saltaah’s origin, but the most common one that it first started in the (IDAMAT-الادامات ), a common charity houses during Ottoman Empire).They used to save food leftovers given from rich families or Mosques by mixing them all together and warmed up in stone pots under fire for long amount of time.

It’s humbling to know that this dish, rich with flavors, textures, and nutrition would be invented by poor. This however didn’t prevent it from finding its way to the tables of sheikhs and merchants all over the country later on.

Ottoman troop’s continued their trials to invade Northern Yemen between( 1597-1630) and(1830-1918).Only until the 1830’s they were able to take Sana’a from the ruling Zayidi Imams at the time, making it the Yemeni district capital in 1872. (1) Perhaps that’s why Saltaah is more popular in Northern Yemen?!

During this 88 years period, many Yemenis where given titles and positions under the Ottoman government and some Turks settled, and got married to Yemeni women and vice versa, diversifying the ethnic and cultural scene of the country.

yemeni kids from the mountains

Yemeni cooking stone dishes

Stone Dish مقلى

If you are out of Yemen, it might be difficult to find a stone ware (Maklaa-مقلى) like the ones made in Yemen.You might be able to find Korean bowls in Asian grocery stores that are similar to them. It is very common in Far East cultures to cook with stone dishes as well. Yemeni cooking stone  dishes

A mosque that was built under Ottoman ruling with clearly  Turkish  architectural style

A mosque that was built under Ottoman ruling with clearly Turkish architectural style

financial reciept issued in Yemen under Ottoman empire

financial reciept issued in Yemen under Ottoman empire

Ottoman Coin 1846-in Yemen

Ottoman Coin 1846-in Yemen

It seems that Saltaah became a trade mark of Yemeni Cuisine. Its served sizzling, usually towards the end of the meal and eaten with Sahawek Bisbas, or alone with warm bread. Yemenis swear by its health benefits and how it warms them up in the winter. The great thing about Saltaah is it could be served all vegetarian or with meat or chicken as well.

Ingredients:

Hilba Ingredients

1.5 eating spoon of Fenugreek Seeds powder soaked in water

Fenugreek seed powder to the right.To the left is the same fenugreek seed powder after being soaked in cold water

Fenugreek seed powder to the right.
To the left is the same fenugreek seed powder after being soaked in cold water

Khathawir (Green paste mixed with hilba)

5 leaves of mint

4-5 cloves of garlic

Pinch of salt

½ Bundle of Leek (optional though)

½ bundle of cilantro

3-4 Basel Leaves

½ tea spoon of dried zaatar

½ tea spoon of Cumin

khathawer ingredients

Khathawer after grind

 

Saltaah Base

2/3 cup of Chicken broth or Meat broth

½ onions grounded

1 grounded tomato

½ green peppers

Optional additions

1 egg or chicken or meat, cooked potato, Tomato Paste, beans, cooked rice

 

-Start by soaking the fenugreek seeds powder in water for 3 hours before starting to cook.

-Mix Khathawir ingredients in your food processor until they all become well blended, set aside.

-Now remove the water from the Fenugreek seed powder, and start whisking it with wood spoon until it foams up and become white in color, your Hilba is almost ready.

-Add some Khathawir into Hilba, until it becomes green; keep the rest of Khathawir in your fridge.

Khathawer+whipped saltaah

green hilbah

-Heat the stone dish on the oven , add some oil and start adding the onions, tomatoes, green peppers.

-Add any optional additions.

koshin

Now add the broth and bring to complete boil, if it evaporated quickly add more as you wish.

maraq

saltaah

-Now add the green Hilba on top of it, you will notice it will cool it down a little bit, wait until it start bubbling again, but don’t mix it. The last layer of Saltaah should be with the green foam on top.

-Serve sizzling with warm bread, and spicy Sahawek Bisbas.

 Sources

(1)    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Yemen#Ottoman_influence

(2)    http://www.forumbiodiversity.com/showthread.php/24486-Mountain-Yemenies

(3)    http://stampandpostalhistory.blogspot.com/2012/02/turkish-otthman-issued-in-yemen-dated.html

A mention from Los Angelese Times Yemeni Stone ware http://articles.latimes.com/2006/feb/22/food/fo-soapstone22/2

Oshaar (Pickled lemon) عـشـــْـــار

It was sometimes in the 912 A.D During the Abbasid Khaliffet Dynasty when the first lemon seeds were brought to Egypt from India, and where seen in Oman and Yemen (1). We don’t know exactly how did this plant found its way to Yemen, but it surely opened the doors for new flavors in cooking in the whole region. Lemon mostly needed to be preserved to be used for the whole year round.

Oshaar is a very popular lemon pickle. It is traced from Indian origins but differs from the Indian lemon pickles in many ways though, it has no oil (which I actually prefer it that way), it’s less spicy, and is more runny than the traditional Indian version. It’s simple yet rich in its flavor. I like to eat Oshaar with Mayonnaise in a sandwich, but usually it is eaten with rice and meat.

From Aden, this pickled heavenly, savory; delicious dressing marched to the rest of the country. Aden is a port city and was part of the British colony. Many Indians who worked for the British at that time moved and settled in Aden as it was bustling with businesses. In 1963, the last British soldier left Aden, but many Indians, however, made Aden homeland. Until now, Aden is known for its Indian influenced cuisine.Oshaar is only one of many things Yemenis share with Indians.

Old Stamps that represents Aden from the British Colony Era

Ingredients:

Sea Salt

½ cup of Vinegar

18 green small Lemons

8 thinly sliced Garlic Cloves

7-8 thinly slices small carrots

Empty Jam Jars.

4-5 dried red hot chili

Black seed (Nigella Sativa) -optional  

Cumin -optional

Start cutting the Lemons in + shape from its middle section.

Fill the + shape with the sea salt until it’s totally stuffed and start to fill the jam jars with them.

After slicing the carrots and garlic put some of them in each jar evenly and follow with filling only half the jars with vinegar.

Close the jam jars tightly, and make sure you put them in an area that is exposed to sun for almost most of the day. My mom used to put Oshaar Jars on the ceiling of our house, and keep it out for a whole 6-7 weeks.

Now the lemons are pickled and ready for the second step, which is adding the red hot chili and black seed.

First boil the red chili in a small pot half filled with water, then remove the water, repeat this step 2 more times. If you, like your Oshaar spicier then you can boil the chili for one time only.

grind the chili in the food processor with the boiled water and 2 fresh garlic cloves.

Mix this blend with the pickled lemon and add the black seed before you close the jar again.

Your Oshaar is ready!

Sources:

1The geographical distribution of animals and plants: part I, Part 1 ,p.117

http://books.google.com/books?id=CW8WAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA117&dq=when+did+lemon++cultivated+in+yemen&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1xe4UIHqH4Pe8AS9ooGoCA&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=when%20did%20lemon%20%20cultivated%20in%20yemen&f=false