Sunday, 3 January 2010

Hot, dark, tempting

The realisation that the hedonistic winter celebrations of gluttony and cheap champagne is over feels bleak and calls for strong measures. Coffee. Black, scorchingly hot and giddily strong, Turkish Coffee, with its swooning body and enveloping aroma, can pull you out of the most wondrous melancholy. What differentiates it from its European cousin, Espresso, is the long, measured process of making it. To achieve a sufficiently languid result one ought to rely on a tremble of one's hand and a sharpness of one's eye, more than on a beautifully gleaming machinery. Cezve (pronounced [jezva], a Turkish coffee pot, is the key to the creation that is syropy, full-bodied, electrifying.

'Cezve'-Turkish coffee pot

Cezve is a curved, high-necked pot, normally no taller than the size of your palm; it is often made out of copper. They call it a briki in many English-speaking countries, but the original word for cezve comes from Arabic, meaning coal - presumably from the method of making coffee on burning coal. An only slightly modified word dzezva is known to most Russians too, as making coffee on a stove using this pot was fairly common - at least for the bohemian Soviet hippies (there were a number of those behind the Iron Curtain), as my parents were.

Breakfast of naked coffee and cigarettes

For years my mother's morning ritual was to have nothing else but a cup of very strong Turkish coffee - with a sugar lump, but no milk - and a cigarette, or two. My Madeleine memory is perhaps this curious combination of warm dark roasted coffee and a slightly tart, but strangely comforting smell of burning tobacco. Of course mother would always try to shoo me away from the kitchen with its translucent clouds of cigarette smoke, but it often didn't work, and so I would stay, perching on a stool, always hungry in the morning, waiting for breakfast, which would inevitably for a Russ include buterbrody - open sandwiches - with ham, cheese and whatnot - and, from a fairly early age, also be a cup of coffee, perhaps a little lighter than mother's and always with a thick layer of cream. I still remember the chocolate-cake like appearance of my coffee top, a toffee coloured mixture of coffee grains (grains would always settle down after a moment) mixed in with warm, fatty milk. These days Russians and Ukrainians call any basic recipe of coffee topped with boiling water in a cup Turkish coffee, but this uncooked method is an unsatisfying and grainy drink. Cezve is what makes all the difference...

Turkish coffee in Turkey

Many years after my childhood coffee-tobacco memories, I learnt how to make Turkish coffee proper whilst travelling through central and south-eastern Turkey. During my journey, which coincided with Bayram - the end of Ramadan - I was fortunate enough to spend three days with a Turkish family, in a prosperous and modern (and hence rarely visited by Westerns) city of Kaiseri. We visited many houses, kissed many cheeks, ate a lot of honey-dripping baklava with endless cups of tea - and coffee, of course.

Celebration of the end of Ramadan with sweets and tea

The mother of Adnan, our host, beckoned me to a small but spotlessly clean kitchen, to show me the process of making kahva, Turkish coffee, and here I am sharing with you the recipe learnt there, in the city floating between Asia and Europe, a lullaby of modern and the old...

Master and its servants: cezve and the ingredients

Turkish coffee

You will need:
1 tbsp very finely grounded coffee (I find the zingy Columbian Grupo Asociativo Quebradon from Monmouth a fitting match here)
1 tsp soft brown sugar
a small cup of water (mineral is best)
1 cezve

Pour cold water into your pot, add coffee and sugar and stir gently. The liquid will feel heavy, like a lava.

Put on a stove, on a lowest heat possible and wait...

After some 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the caress of the heat, the volcano will very slowly start building up, the foam shaping up, moving up, speeding up. Do not move away at this stage - you'll be transfixed by the champagne of caramel-coloured bubbles expanding, desperate to burst.

At the point when the vessel cannot longer contain the liquid, take it off the heat, pour the foam - and only the form, which is about 1/3 of the whole content - into a cup, and put the cezva back on the stove.

Let the coffee have another go, going all the way to the bream of the pot......when almost over the edge, take it off and pour the remainder into the cup, patiently waiting.

Drink slowly but edgily, there and then.

A puff of blue smoke will make the taste all the more intense... or, for those less sinfully inclined, a bite of honey-drenched baklava.

Remember, Turks predict future by what's left behind. Once the coffee grains are poured out of a cup, let the thin layer of mud dry up a bit - what does my say?..


Lori said...

I don't think I have had Turkish coffee, but I have had Greek coffee and it is prepared in a briki as well I think. Maybe it is the same thing all together.

I love that rich, strong flavor. It is definitely a unique flavor even to the strong coffees of the world like what we had in Brazil.

Katrina said...

hi Lori, yes, in fact Greeks call this coffee Turkish as well/

Brazilian coffees are beauuuutiful, and I had tried to use coffees from Brazil to make Turkish in cezve - works well too.

Elvira said...

Nice post! :)

gastroanthropologist said...

I'm like a moth to a flame when coffee is brewing. Your description sounds amazing. Is that a picture of your mom? - if so, she's gorgeous! Where might I find this cezve in London? With all the London snow copious amounts of coffee is absolutely necessary.

Katrina said...

Gastroanthropologist - cezve in London,hmmm, perhaps somewhere in the area of Greek Lanes, where most of the Turkish community reside, I'll look out for it.

But to be certain, come to my house..:)

shall i organise a turkish coffee and baklava afternoon one of these days?;)