Monday, 4 May 2015

Interesting Ingredients: Tahini

Over the last week I've been experimenting with some recipes from a delightful new cookbook, Sesame and Spice by Anne Shooter, a review of which I am planning for the near future, so I won't give too much away here. However, one of the recipes I made was a batch of Tahini and Honey Cookies, and I was very amused by peoples' reactions to them. I had initially made the batch for an outing my church toddler group had arranged for last Thursday, but the big Tonju was very ill; one of those 24 hour things where you feel so sorry for them for one day, but the next they are fine and bored to tears, but they have to stay home from nursery because they've been sick in the last 48 hours. So I ended up with a batch of 30 biscuits, which I lovingly presented in a tin, having separated the layers with baking paper. I decided to take them with me to our church evening meeting yesterday, so as to allow the people for whom they were originally intended to sample them, and also because I was very interested in seeing their reactions.

I'm not going to talk particularly about the biscuits themselves here, as that will come in the book review, but I loved telling people the name of them, as it was evident that most people had no idea what tahini is, and I confess I only came across it in the last couple of years, though for some reason I had an inkling as to what it was.

Tahini is a thick paste made entirely of crushed sesame seeds with absolutely no additives.

It usually comes in this type of tub, or in a jar. It has a thick consistency and the solid and oil has a tendancy to separate if the container is left for a while, so it usually needs a good stir when the required amount has been measured out into a bowl or other container. It can be found in the world foods aisle of (very!) large supermarkets, but much more easily in any health food shop.

Once any lumps have been removed by a good stir, the tahini will have a beautiful, smooth consistency and a slight sheen to the surface. It can be used in both savoury and sweet recipes, and it is very common for honey, lemon or both to be added to it. Tahini is incredibly viscous, and many people do not like the taste and texture of it before it has had other goodies added to it. I, however, am not one of those people, and can happily eat a teaspoonful of tahini on its own! I think I like the bitter tang; I also love green tea and olives so I think raw tahini is probably along the same lines.

This delicious recipe is a great one for using tahini in a savoury context:

This is the cookie recipe I used in Sesame and Spice. There's no lucky online link I'm afraid, but here is a search for tahini recipes on BBCGoodFood, if you'd like to give it at try.

And finally, in case you wondered, as did my big Tonju when we last had the sesame halloumi parcels, where sesame seeds come from, this fantastic book...

...reliably informs me that is from, "a tropical or subtropical plant that produces seed pods that, when dried, burst open and are then shaken to encourage the release of hundreds of tiny seeds." 

This post is the first of hopefully many which will shed light on new or slightly unusual ingredients. If there is an ingredient you would like to see elaborated upon, leave a message in the comments or on the Facebook page.

As always, thanks for reading :)

xxx Sam

Ps. I'm looking forward to showcasing the delicious veggie bakes very soon...!!!

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