Saturday, 30 January 2016

Tasting Jerusalem #32 – Hawayej

Dee – The first ingredient to be featured in Tasting Jerusalem for 2016 was Hawayej;  a name given to a number of spice blends originating in Yemen, and which arrived in Jerusalem via Yemenite Jews who emigrated to Israel.

My first experience of using Hawayej was back in January 2015 when we sampled Yemenite Jewish cuisine as part of our first blogging project (click here for details).  There is only one recipe in the Jerusalem cook book which uses it, and I chose that one for the first Tasting Jerusalem instalment back in February last year (click here for details), so I found myself faced with another excursion beyond the pages of the book.

As I was researching recipe possibilities, I discovered that there was a version of Hawayej that was used to flavour coffee, and found a very tempting recipe for a drink that was described as a winter warmer, providing me with an opportunity to continue a theme that began in December 2015 with Sahlab in Tasting Jerusalem #30 (click here for details).

The recipe I used for the spice was quite basic but included the most commonly listed ingredients, but it worked nicely for me;

Hawayej Coffee Spice
Blend together the following ingredients;
2 tsp Fennel Seeds
¼ tsp Ground Aniseed
¼ tsp Ground Cardamom
2 tsp Ground Ginger
Every cook is sure to have their own preferences, and the quantities listed above can be scaled up if more is required, but I kept them low as I wasn’t sure when I would use the spice again.

My Hawayej-spiced coffee ended up being a variation of a recipe known as Qahwa Bayda, or ‘White Coffee’, detailed on the web site.  The recipes on the site are from Yemen, but I really didn’t want to pass this one by, and who knows, maybe it, or a version of it, is enjoyed somewhere in Jerusalem…

Spiced White Coffee
Makes one large mug or about four small cups
¼ Cup Toasted Sesame Seeds
½ Teaspoon Hawayej Coffee Spice
1 Mug Milk (as I am still committed to Veganuary as I write this, I used Soya Milk)
1 Teaspoon Instant Coffee
Sugar, to taste

-Measure out about 1cm worth of Sesame Seeds into the bottom of the mug or cups and add them to a saucepan with the Milk and Hawayej.
-Bring this mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for 8 to 10 minutes.
-Add the coffee to the spiced milk and stir it in until it completely combines.
-Pour the drink into the mug or cups.  It should be topped with the sesame seeds.  Add sugar to taste.
-Serve with a teaspoon for any sesame seeds remaining at the end of the drink.

The quantities listed in the original recipe included far more sesame seeds, and the commentary mentioned the preference in Yemen for lots of sugar, making a super-sweet drink, but I was happy with the version I made.  It was nice and milky, and delivered fully on its promise of being a winter warmer.  The spices were a lot more subtle than I was expecting, with the aniseed being the most prominent than the ginger and cardamom.  The sesame seeds were an interesting addition and gave the coffee a distinctive character.  The inclusion of milk in the recipe made this coffee closer to sahlab than the more widely encountered black coffee, but we have also added the spice mix to black coffee to spice that up which was really rather nice too.

In terms of accompaniments, I think this would be great served alongside a few rich, crumbly biscuits, but I don’t think it would pair so well with fruits or sticky, syrupy pastries.

Next month we will have been working on our Tasting Jerusalem project for one year, so I think something special to mark the occasion would be good.  In fact, plans are already in place so stay tuned…

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)


  1. Gosh - I just love your approach to cooking and creating! Hannah from Blue Kale Road just posted her hawayij post and mentioned that she loved the scent of her mix that she threw some in her coffee and loved it. This sounds so lovely for a cool day. Right now we are having a hot blast again here in CA but my house tends to stay cold. So I have been enjoying coffee as well as some wonderful Chai mixes. This almost sounds like it would be the coffee version of a spicy chai (if that makes any sense at all!) We are so thrilled to have you as part of our group.

    1. Thanks so much. We both love being part of it.
      We found the Hawayej-spiced coffee to be more subtle tasting than chai, and we drank the coffee hot. Now you mention the hot weather though, I'd be interested to see how an iced coffee version of what we made would work. Thanks for the tip-off :-)