Miraculous Qizha Paste- in a Palestinian Cake
By: Blanche Shaheen/Arab America Contributing Writer
There is a mysterious black ingredient, touted to cure “everything but death” in the Arab and Islamic world. This ingredient, called qizha in Arabic, or nigella seed paste, looks like black tar toothpaste or engine oil, and tastes a little like tahini, with undertones of mint and oregano.
This ingredient is found in Turkey, Syria and Iraq, but it is really celebrated in the Palestinian town of Nablus, where they grow and manufacture their own renowned black seed paste. Palestinians use the paste as an elixir, taking a spoonful a day the way many people take cod liver oil. But to make the ingredient really palatable, they incorporate the qizha paste into this ancient black seed cake, called “Suniyat Al Qizha.”
Here in the states you can find the black seed oil in health food, Indian, and Middle Eastern stores, but the paste with the thicker texture is harder to find. When consumed, nigella seeds have been shown to have multiple health benefits and can aid in the following conditions:
To keep the spirit of ancient traditions, you can use a Palestinian variety of black seed paste and unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, as well as sifted einkorn flour. Einkorn is a covered wheat, an ancient grain that has less gluten and more nutrition than traditional whole wheat. This flour is the most ancient wheat we have available today, offering many essential dietary and trace minerals as well as protein, iron, and dietary fiber.
However, if you want to keep the recipe simple, you can use regular flour, and use tahini paste instead of the qizha paste. The cake won’t be black, but it will surely be delicious!
To see the ancient technique of how to make this unusual cake, click on the video below:
“Suniyat Al Qizha” Palestinian Nigella Seed Paste Cake
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 1 cup semolina
- 2 cups einkorn flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ cup qizha paste (nigella seed paste)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup avocado oil
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- Tahini to coat the pan
- Blanched almonds for decoration
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start by making a simple syrup by adding 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a saucepan. Stir until it boils, then reduce the heat to low and simmer while stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Add the juice of ½ lemon and set aside.
- To make the cake, add the flour to a skillet, and stir over low heat to toast for about 5 minutes. This is an optional step. Then sift the flour into a bowl and add the semolina and baking powder. Combine well before adding the olive and avocado oils. Add the black seed paste or tahini. Using your hands, combine the oils and the flours and paste thoroughly. In a separate cup, dissolve and stir ½ cup sugar into 1 cup of water. Gradually add the sugar water to the batter, using your hands and working it through until the mixture is like a thick pancake batter.
- Grease a 9 inch cake pan with the tahini paste. Pour the batter into the pan. Using a knife, create fun shapes on the top surface of the cake. Add blanched almonds to the top. Bake the cake for 25 – 30 minutes. Pour the simple syrup over the warm cake, and let sit for about 15 minutes before serving.
Can’aan Fair Trade olive oil: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007TS5KHY?linkCode=ssc&tag=onamzblanches-20&creativeASIN=B007TS5KHY&asc_item-id=amzn1.ideas.26EPEKOI4GZZC&ref_=aip_sf_list_spv_ons_d_asin
Einkorn Flour: https://www.amazon.com/Jovial-General-Purpose-Organic-Einkorn/dp/B01FUXX918/ref=sr_1_9?crid=2WB2A9P3FEINT&keywords=einkorn+flour+organic&qid=1676955057&sprefix=einkor%252Caps%252C243&sr=8-9&_encoding=UTF8&tag=43720f-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=b6f9b6ce4f34b4aacaf1d675789df6c4&camp=1789&creative=9325
Blanche Shaheen is the author of the cookbook called “Feast In the Middle East, a Journey of Family and Cuisine” which you can order here: https://secure.mybookorders.com/mbo_index.php?isbn=9781545675113 She is also a journalist, and host of the popular cooking show called Feast in the Middle East. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond. You can check out her cooking video tutorials at https://www.youtube.com/user/blanchetv Her recipes can also be found at: https://feastinthemiddleeast.wordpress.com/