This is my version of the gorgeous Staff Tisane from Alep and Petit Alep (the restaurants share a building at 199, rue Jean-Talon Est, Montreal (514) 270-6396). I’m eternally grateful to the very nice lady with the stylish glasses at Alep – the more formal of the two restaurants, which is only open in the evenings – who was able to find me a table for 11 people with only three hours’ notice on a Friday.
Alep and its little sister are Syrian-Armenian restaurants, and I challenge you to find better Middle Eastern food anywhere outside…you know, the Middle East. There are shish kebabs made with juicy, pink steak tenderloin. Muhammara (a walnut dip) running with pomegranate molasses. Tabbouleh which is gorgeously, correctly heavy on the parsley. We found some of the best prawns I’ve eaten this year; the food here is spicy, elegant and really, really tasty. Try the Menu Degustation at Alep in the evenings, which is extraordinarily good value at only $28 a head for far, far more than we could finish – dips, salads, spicy little beef sausages, seafood, lamb in a rose petal sauce, those glorious shish kebabs – you’ll leave stuffed and very happy. We went back to Le Petit Alep for lunch on the day we visited Jean Talon Market (they’re just around the corner) for lunch, and discovered that the spicy french fries, served with a bowl of mayonnaise, are the sort of thing you’d sell a grandparent into slavery for.
Alep’s drinks were fabulous. I got thoroughly sozzled on the home-made lemonade and vodka on the first night, then drank several of these tisanes the next day for lunch. I started trying to reproduce the tisane as soon as we got back to England, and I’m very pleased with this version. For every glass (or mug), you’ll need:
1 teaspoon orange flower water
1 teaspoon rose water
5 cardamom pods
3 leafy sprigs of mint
Slices of orange, lemon and lime to decorate
Bash the cardamom seeds lightly in a mortar and pestle to crack them slightly, and put them in a glass with the flower waters and the mint. Pour over freshly boiled water, leave to steep for five minutes and serve.