Qizha (nigella and sesame paste) Smoothie
Monday, 10 Apr 2017

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Lately I’ve been into tahini.

I prefer more pourable tahini than the thick health-food variety, though I imagine the latter variety has less oil and is thus vaguely healthier, if claggier. What intrigued me the most was the existence of other varieties of tahini in Jerusalem/Gaza, namely dark-roasted ‘red’ tahini - made by roasting, rather than steaming unhulled sesame seeds - and ‘black’ tahini or qizha, a mixture of sesame and black cumin, aka nigella.

I greatly desired the latter when I first read about it in a Vice article, where it’s described as ‘impossible to source’ outside Nablus (which apparently has excellent tahini). I found it on the internet on yaffa.co.uk, under the name ‘Palestinian Black Seed Paste’, from which you can also buy all your necessities like Palestinian olive oil, Palestinian medjoul dates and keffiya scarves (available in pink). They’re also on Amazon, so qizha seems quite easy to source, at least in the UK, where Vice exists.

Journalistic exaggerations aside, qizha is still more expensive than regular tahini and comes in a smaller than average jar, and when it came I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. The one recipe I’ve found on the internet is for a pie which, to be fair, is composed mostly of sugar, so I went ahead and did what I would do with any other nut/seed butter: I made a smoothie instead, loosely based on the pie. To compensate for the bitter taste I used less tahini paste than I normally would for a tahini smoothie, and used five whole medjoul dates (instead of sugar) for sweetness.

Blended together with a few almonds and almond milk for protein, and frozen bananas for texture, sweetness and the whole fruit-potassium-starch bit (you know what I mean) - and a new smoothie was born.

The end result wasn’t as dark as the qizha paste but was instead a light, caramelly brown, very appealing.

The best way to describe the taste is medicinal.

There was a distinct herbal quality to it. The sweetness of the medjoul dates is present, but overall it’s a bit less easy on the tongue early in the morning than a straight-up tahini smoothie. The primary (and intense) taste of nigella isn’t novel to most of us, but it isn’t normally one that’s dominant, or one we’d associate with a smoothie or dessert. The medicinal taste isn’t a surprise either, as nigella has been historically used as a medicine by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and mentioned in Islamic literature (as a medicine) and the Old Testament (Isaiah 28:25).

It does appear to have some compounds with active properties, like thymoquinone (see this on immunomodulatory effects, this on antimicrobial effects, and this on antimicrobial activity; see also a review on therapeutic potential, review on neuropsychiatric effects, and pharmacological and toxicological properties) - note that I include this information with the caveat that eating seed-paste isn’t a substitute for modern medicine.

Would I make it again? Yes, but with one modification: a single teaspoon of qizha instead of two to reduce the intensity. A little goes a long way.

Qizha smoothie

Ingredients

Serves 1

  • 2 frozen bananas (chopped)
  • 2 tsp qizha
  • 5 medjoul dates
  • a small handful (about 1/8 cup) almonds
  • 1 cup almond milk
Method

Add ingredients to blender in the order given and blend until smooth.

Add more or less almond milk to get the consistency you like.


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