Cherished for its unique taste and versatility, kishk is a climat-smart dairy product made from cracked wheat and fermented milk and yogurt. Although it is prepared in cuisines around the world from Iran, Turkey, Mongolia, Transcaucasia and the Levant, it holds a particularly important place in Lebanese food heritage and kitchens.
We spoke with different local producers and food experts to learn more about the agricultural, social, economic and nutritional aspects of kishk.
Traditionally made in summer to be stored and consumed in cold winter months, kishk has a culinary history rooted in Lebanon’s seasons. The Food Heritage Foundation’s Zeinab Jeambey scours the country for this ever popular dairy delicacy and discovers a diversity of flavors.
Undoubtedly one of Lebanon’s delicacies, a product of thousands of years of culinary refinement, “kishk” equals the world’s most renowned dairy products.
The name “Kishk” originates from the Persian word “kashk”, referring to a mix of cracked wheat and cracked Barley.
Characterized as a fermented milk product, “kishk” is made of bulgur – cracked parboiled wheat – mixed with either milk or yogurt.
A common food in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Turkey, “Kishk” season starts in the summer, when milk production is at its best and sun heat at its peak. Cracked wheat is soaked in milk or yogurt for almost a week and fermentation is kept under control by adding small amounts of dairy every few days. After cracked wheat soaks in the dairy products and fermentation reaches the right degree, the pre-final product is an edible dough named “kishk akhdar” or “green kishk”. At this stage, this type of “kishk” can be formed into small balls and conserve them in olive oil for consumption in wintertime.
To get to the final “kishk” product, the dough is spread onto clean white sheets, on village rooftops, for the heat of the summer to dry it rock hard. Once totally dry, tradition calls for women to come together for a wonderful communal work: rubbing off dried “kishk” with the hands to obtain a fine, off-white powder, winter’s most nutritious preserve.
Not all “Kishk” varieties taste the same: producers, kishk peculiarities and specialty dishes
Though all “kishk” in Lebanon is powdery in texture, the taste varies widely depending on the type of ingredients used in “kishk” making. It can be made out of cow, goat or sheep milk or yogurt or an alternation between milk and yogurt, or yogurt and strained yogurt, better known as “Labneh”. The type of wheat used equally affects the taste and color of “kishk”. Baladi wheat, salamouni wheat and white wheat confer different flavors, texture and color to the final product.
From Aarsal: Halime el Houjeiri and Kishk with vegetables
Aarsal’s mountainous community has a long pastoral history, and goat and goat milk products are highly valued by local people.
Halime Al Houjeiri, president of the Women Coop on Aarsal takes pride in the “kishk” quality the women produce. Her “kishk” is sour in taste, a reflection of the high quality milk produced by goats grazing on wild herbs and highland thistles.
[quote]A taste from Aarsal: Kishk with Khodra[/quote]
“kishk” powder is mixed with cold water to form a soft dough to which chopped tomato, cucumber, radishes, onions, mint and crushed garlic are added, with a generous drizzle of olive oil.
From Kherbet Qanafar: Lina Haddad and “Kishk Akhdar”
Food producer for the longest time, Lina recently established her table d’hôte as part of a “darb El karam”, a growing food tourism network in West Bekaa. Lina’s brothers owns a dairy farm and Lina makes her dairy products at home. One of her bestselling products is Kishk and Green Kishk. In season, visitors of her table d’hôte can enjoy this delicacy and other kishk specialties.
[quote]A taste from Kherbet Qanafar: Kishk Akhdar with Walnuts[/quote]
kishk akhdar is spread in a plate and adorned with chopped walnuts, onions, mint and tomatoes. The tangy taste of Green Kishk combine heavenly with the nuttiness of the walnuts.
From Maasser el Shouf: Elissar Temrez and “Omayshe”
Farmer and food producer, Elissar specializes in items solely cultivated in her land and processed by her and her husband. Her “kishk” is a mixture of cow and goat milk with baladi wheat, softening the strong taste of pure goat “kishk”, a perfect match to the locally known dish “Omaysheh”
[quote]A taste from Maasser el Shouf: Omayshe with grilled onions[/quote]
Omaysheh is a dish widely known in the Shouf area and the regions of Hasbaya and Rashaya. It is simply made of “kishk” and fine bulgur mixed with lukewarm water then combined with olive oil to soften the dough. The dish is eaten along with grilled onions.
Maacaroun bil-kishk combines dough balls cooked with kishk and qawarma! Rich with carbohydrates and proteins, this dish is commonly prepared by dwellers of the elevated mountains during cold winter days. The dough balls are pressed on a fork or a sieve which gives them the pattern of the “sweet maacaroun” and makes them absorb the mix easily. Qawarma is sometimes added to the kishk, hence enhancing its caloric content. In the Soueida region in Syria, Maacaroun bi kishk is also prepared with slight differences; the dough is cooked in hot water, drained then sprinkled with kishk, olive oil and minced garlic.
Total servings: 4
Caloric content: 400 calories/serving
1 cup of flour
¼ cup of water
A pinch of salt
4 garlic gloves (2 chopped and 2 whole)
3 tbsp. of qawarma
1 cup pf kishk powder
2 cups of water
1. To make the dough, mix the flour with salt and water. 2. Knead well and cut into small pieces. 3. Make balls with the dough pieces. 4. Roll each ball against a fork, sieve or a grater to give it a patterned texture (like the sweet maacaroun). 5. Cook the dough in hot water, then drain it well.
Stir-fry the garlic in the qawarma until it is soft.
Pound garlic in a mortar, add a pinch of salt and continue pounding to a paste.
In a large plate, put the pounded garlic, two spoons of qawarma and add the cooked maacaron.
Sprinkle the kishk over garlic, qawarma and maacaron.
Omayshe is a typical recipe of the Chouf region. Although it looks like a humble dish, it is very nutritious. The traditional way of preparing omayshe is with bulgur and kishk with roasted onions, but some people like to add spices, tomato paste or green onions when available. It is common for omayshe to be consumed with onions instead of bread.
Total servings: 4
Preparation time: 15 mins
2 cups of fine bulgur
1 cup of kishk
3 cups of water
1 tsp of salt
3 medium onions
6 tbsp. of olive oil
1 tsp of tomato paste (optional)
¼ tsp pf chili pepper (optional)
Mint leaves for decoration
Boil the water in a pot and add the salt
Meanwhile roast the onions in the oven
Add the bulgur, kishk, tomato paste and chili pepper to the boiled water and stir slowly on a small fire until all the ingredients are well mixed
Serve the omayshe while hot and top with sliced roasted onions and garnish with mint leaves
This recipe uses kishk as a main ingredient but also as a seasoning, similar to the use of grated Parmesan. Meeykeh is a traditional recipe in the Shouf mountains. If not available, wild mint could be substituted with chicory.
Total Servings: 6
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
1 medium onion
1½ cup of wild mint
¼ cup of dry kishk
¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp of salt
¼ cup chopped tomato
¼ cup dry kishk
Wash the vegetables and set aside to dry
In a bowl, mix all ingredients while gradually adding the dressing
Garnish with tomatoes and sprinkle the kishk before serving
Kishk soup is a nutritious soup consumed especially during winter. The soup can be served as a side with baked meat kebbeh. Alternatively, raw or oven baked kebbeh balls can be placed in the boiling kishk soup till they are well cooked. For a lighter and healthier version of this recipe, substitute kawarma with lean cow meat.
Total Servings: 6
Preparation time: 45 minutes
1 cup of kishk powder
2 tbsp. of qawarma (cow or goat meat preserved in sheep fat)
4 garlic gloves, chopped
1 small potato, finely diced (optional)
5 cups of water
Put the qawarma in a pot on the oven fire and stir slowly
Add the chopped garlic and the diced potato
Stir well on low heat until the potatoes are cooked well
Fatayer kishk or mana’eesh b kishk are very popular in Lebanon and prepared in various ways. They are consumed usually over breakfast. The recipe we are sharing here is a healthy one from Ras Beirut, and rich in fibers.
Total Servings: 5 dozens
500 g of cow’s milk kishk
5 cups of vegetable oil
2 tbsp. of tomato paste
100 g of onions, grated
2 tbsp. of sesame seeds, roasted
1 tbsp. of pomegranate paste
700g of brown whole wheat flour
300g of bran flour
3 tbsp. of vegetable oil
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of sugar
2 cups of water
In a bowl, mix all filling ingredients and set aside
In another bowl, mix the dough ingredients and let it rest
After 15 minutes, divide the dough into small balls
Pat the small balls into round shaped pieces of 3 mm thickness
Put one tbsp. of filling on the dough
Press both ends of the dough and stretch to form a boat shaped turnover
Press the edges to make sure they stick together
Preheat the oven at 240˚C. (fire should be from the bottom side)
Place the turnovers on an oven pan covered with parchment paper, sprinkle them with bran flour and leave to rest for 15 minutes prior to inserting the pan in the oven
Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottom of the pastries turn golden in color.
Under the mid-summer sun, kishk is spread and left to dry on white sheets on the rooftops of Lebanese villages, before it is ground into powder. Kishk, a preserved dairy product made from cracked wheat fermented in milk and yogurt, is prepared in different ways and is used in the cuisines of Iran, Turkey, Mongolia, Transcaucasia and the Levant, namely Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan.
Kishk has been prepared and consumed in Lebanon since the 10th century. Kishk can be prepared using cow, sheep or goat milk; however the kishk found on the market is made with cow milk exclusively as goat milk gives it a strong, acidic taste, which might not be appealing to the wider public.
Traditionally, kishk is prepared with brown wheat bulgur; nevertheless, consumers prefer a light colored, whitish kishk powder. To satisfy their demand, kishk producers use white wheat bulgur instead of the brown one; however, for their house consumption, producers still use the brown wheat bulgur.
During the first 4 days after soaking bulgur in yogurt, it is rubbed by hand on a daily basis, to make sure that yogurt is fully absorbed by the coarse bulgur grains. Meanwhile, more yogurt is added gradually in order to keep the mixture from drying out. Salt is also added to the mixture to prevent mold formation.
Kishk is then left to ferment for 9 days, after which “green” kishk is obtained, which is consumed fresh like labneh, or conserved in extra virgin olive oil in glass jars. Green kishk is then spread on cloth sheets, on the house’s rooftop to dry under the sun. Every morning, it is rubbed between the palms of the hands to break the kishk mixture into smaller pieces and accelerate the drying process. When fully dry, kishk is sifted then ground into a fine powder to become the kishk mix we know.
Traditionally, rubbing and sifting kishk was considered as a social event when the neighborhood women used to gather on one roof to help each other, an occasion to share stories and anecdotes.
The use of dry kishk differs among Lebanese regions. Kishk can be prepared in different forms such as salads (Wild mint and kishk salad “Meeykeh”); soups (“shorbet Kishk” and “Kishkiyye”); fillings for turnovers or mana’eesh; hot dishes such as kebbeh with kishk (“kebbeh b kishk”), kishk with eggs (“kishk aala bayd”), cabbage with kishk (“malfouf aala kishk”), wheat-flour dough with kishk (maacaroon b kishk), meat raviolis with kishk (“shish barak b kishk”), etc.
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