In a region like North Africa, where tea is the beverage of choice, the Tunisian coast is an exception: coffee was introduced here during the period of Ottoman rule in the 16th century, and has remained popular today. The Turks also introduced the cafe culture: in 1846, of the 102 cafes in Tunis, half were owned by Turks.
French colonisation introduced Western-style coffee, with "dehors" and a cosmopolitan clientele. You can however still find the traditional local coffee bars, hidden away among the narrow alleys where old men still gather to play backgammon and smoke the narghilè.
The Tunisian coffee pot (the zézoua) is still very similar to the one introduced by the Ottomans, but the coffee is different from Turkish coffee because of the degree of roasting and Andalusian-inspired orange flower flavouring.
The Andalusian combination of coffee and flowers has also been preserved in the custom of drinking coffee together with a bunch of jasmine flowers, a tradition which developed in aristocratic palaces and soon became common everywhere, on feast days.
Café turk à l’eau de fleur d’orange - Turkish orange flower water coffee
Ingredients (for 4 servings):
4 cups of water
4 heaped teaspoons of powdered Turkish coffee
Sugar to taste
A few drops of orange flower water
Pour water in a traditional coffee pot (zezoua) and bring to the boil. Remove the coffee pot from the stove, add sugar and the coffee powder, mix thoroughly and replace on the stove over a moderate heat, until it begins boiling again. Pour the coffee into your cups, distributing in each a little of the coffee foam that forms on the surface. Finish off by adding a few drops of orange flower water and serve piping hot.
As an alternative to orange flower water, coffee can be flavoured with rose water or pulverised dried orange zest.
Makroud - Couscous semolina biscuits with date paste
Ingredients for the dough:
200 g (7 oz) of fine semolina
½ teaspoon of saffron
20 g (0.7 oz) of clarified butter
10 cl (3.5 fl oz) of seed oil
a pinch of salt
Ingredients for the filling:
150 g (5.3 oz) of Tunisian dates (deglet el nour)
½ teaspoon of powdered cinnamon
Ingredients for the syrup:
250 g (8.8 oz) sugar
25 cl (8.7 fl oz) of water
75 g (2.6 fl oz) of honey
5 cl (1.7 fl oz) of geranium flower water (optional)
Mix the semolina with saffron, the melted butter and the seed oil. Wet the mixture with 10 cl (3.5 fl oz) of lukewarm water and work until it becomes elastic. On a tabletop, thoroughly mix the dough and leave it to rest for 30 minutes wrapping it in a damp cloth.
In the meantime, prepare the stuffing by chopping the pitted dates with the spices. Work them all together and make three long lines. Re-work the semolina pastry and make three blocks of equal size to be placed on the tabletop from which, cut three strips to be filled with the date filling. Fold the pastry back onto itself so as to close it obtaining three long cords which should then be flattened slightly. Cut into diamond shapes. Fry them for about four minutes in plenty of boiling oil, to then quickly dip them in the syrup which you will have prepared in advance by mixing together all the ingredients. Let cool, drain excess syrup and decorate with a sprinkling of roasted sesame seeds.