Do you believe in dark magic?
Well you just might after trying this black beauty 😊
Qizha (izha in the local dialect) or what you might think of as “black tahini,” is a paste made from ground nigella seeds (affectionately called habbet al-baraka, or “seeds of blessing” in Arabic) in much the same way that tahini is made from sesame seeds. Qizha however, is more intensely flavored than its tahini counterpart.
An intriguing combo of bitter, sweet and earthy, qizha is used to ward off winter illnesses especially cough when mixed with honey. It is also used to make the beauty you see in the picture.
Before telling you all about today’s recipe allow me to fill you in on what’s been happening behind the scenes!
I am still vanishing for longer than what I like but hey, I always come back because this blog and you guys mean the world to me! At least I deserve a few points for that! 😉
After the longest 6 weeks of my life, the cast on my leg finally came off and it feels so good not to worry about slipping or a shower or about driving the kids to school or about water getting into the cast or about doorways and stairs or a million other little things that never cross your mind when you’re healthy but become a constant source of worrying and anxiety when you are not.
My foot is almost fully healed now, for a while after removing the cast I was limping a bit which the doctor said was normal for at least a month since the muscles become weak in the 6 weeks they’ve been under the cast and my ankle was somewhat stiff for a couple of weeks. To say that this whole experience was humbling is an understatement!
We take so much for granted and it was truly an eye opener for me!
Since I was stuck at home for most of the time in those 6 weeks, I decided to put my house arrest to good use and took part in inktober. An art challenge that takes part in October of every year were you have to sketch or draw something every single day for the 31 days of October using ink as a medium. Below you will find some of my sketches 🙂 some are better than others but I am actually proud of myself for making it through the whole 31 days without missing a single one. It has been years since I have taken on a drawing challenge and I enjoyed it immensely
I do hope that this little art stop was not too annoying . I just love sharing some of my other hobbies with you. This blog won’t turn into an art blog any time soon . 🙂 so I hope you don’t mind the detour
Now back to the recipe
Saniat qizha or the qizha bars you see in the pictures are sort of a very Palestinian brownie if you well! They are soft, rich and moist yet at the same time they pack an intense flavor punch. There is no chocolate here. The black colour is entirely from the nigella seeds paste but the texture, the intensity and the color are indeed reminiscent of brownies .
2 cups whole wheat flour sifted (see notes)
half as cup sugar
half a cup olive oil (see notes)
3/4 cup qizha paste
1.5 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons tahini
Half a cup of blanched almond halves
For the simple syrup
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Prepare the simple syrup
Place the water, sugar and lemon juice in a pot
Cook over medium heat till it comes to a boil
Take off the heat and allow to cool
You can add a tablespoon of orange blossom water if you like the flavor
Prepare the Qizha
1.Place the flour in a pot over medium low heat and toast it gently while stirring. You only want to do it till the flour is slightly golden and smells slightly nutty
2. Mix the flour with sugar, olive oil, qizha, and instant yeast till homogeneous
3. Add the warm water slowly till you get a soft dough
4. Brush a 25cm pan with tahini
5. Spread the qizha mix in the pan and smooth it with a wet spatula or your wet hands
6. Set aside in a warm place for one hour
7. using a wet knife cut into any pattern that you like. Find the steps for the pattern that I used below 🙂
8. Decorate with blanched almonds
9. Bake in the center of a preheated 180 C oven for 45 minutes or until the almonds on top are slightly golden brown.
This recipe will result in a qizha that is soft brownie consistency. If you like yours to be more of a basbousa consistency
Replace 1/2 cup of the of the flour with semolina
and add a 1/4 cup of olive oil to the mix (that makes the total amount of oil 3/4 of a cup instead of 1/2 cup) and proceed with the recipe as written
If you can’t find qizha paste, you can DIY a substitute. It is not the same as the stone ground one but it will do for a replacement
Homemade qizha paste
1 and 1/4 cups nigella seeds
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive
Toast the seeds for 2 to 4 minutes
Place the seeds in a food processor with the oil and blend, stopping every few minutes to scrape the sides
It took me 15 minutes to get them to paste consistency and even then it was not perfectly smooth but close enough
In traditional qizha, you don’t add the olive oil, it is simply stone ground seeds but the food processor could not transform the dry seeds into a paste even after 15 minutes of processing