“We found a little side valley for lunch, and made a salad and cooked the coffee.”
Letters From Syria, Freya Stark
As a child I lived for a while with my Lebanese grandmother, my Sidto. Every Tuesday afternoon some of the ladies who traveled to the U.S. with her would come to visit. They’d bring store bought-cakes. This was a luxury and a delight. It was something they didn’t have to slave over.
My grandmother would serve coffee. Sometimes it was regular American coffee and sometimes it was Lebanese coffee, a sweet treat fragrant with cardamom. It is the cardamom that distinguishes Lebanese coffee from Turkish.
The coffee, called Al-Qahway in the Arabic, is integral to all entertaining, a hallmark of Lebanese hospitality, which is legendary.
Note: Generally I prefer and recommend purchasing whole beans, however Maaatouk is perfectly blended and ground, delicious and convenient.
It is generally served sweet (mazbuhtah), moderately sweet (wahsat), very sweet (helwa) or, at funerals, bitter (murrrah).
This recipe is for two servings. Just multiply the ingredients to prepare the coffee for more people. This is an easy prep process. Don’t be intimidated.
For two demitasse cups, medium sweet:
2 tablespoons dark-roasted coffee, ground for Turkish Coffee
2 teaspoons organic sugar
2 cardamom pods
Pour two demitasse cupfuls of water into the rakweh. Bring the water to a boil, remove from heat, and add the coffee and sugar. Put the pot back on the heat. The coffee will foam up. Remove from heat and let the foam subside. Add the cardamom pods. Put the pot back on the heat and let it foam again. Remove from heat. Let the foam subside. Do the process once more. Pour into cups. Drink hot, hot, hot.
“There is a certain madness comes over one at the mere sight of a good map.”
FREYA STARK (1893-1993) was an explorer and travel writer, an adventurous woman who was ahead of her times. As a child she was often ill and housebound. When on her nineth birthday, she recived a copy of One Thousand and One Nights, her facination with what was then called “the Orient” began. As an adult she lived in Lebanon and Iran and was the first Westerner to travel western Iran wilderness. She traveled in Southern Arabia, rare for a Westerner, and all over the Middle East. Her books and her biography are facinating reading, not least because they make for a great vicarious adventure. Jane letcher Geniesse’s biography, Passionate Nomad, The Life of Freya Stark, is a recommended read.