Spoons up if you like tahini!? I remember slowly developing a taste for this ground sesame paste rather than immediately liking it, as it’s quite a strong flavour. It could have something to do with the hummus that was fed to me as a girl, by the Lebanese mother of a school friend that lived a few doors down.
Most commonly used in Mediterranean cooking, you’ll find that a traditional recipe for hummus, baba ganoush or halva calls for tahini, and it’s no surprise why. It’s hard to ignore the bold, nutty flavour of the humble sesame seed, whether ground to a paste, infused in oil or sprinkled in a salad whole. Rich in protein, B vitamins, minerals like magnesium, iron and calcium, and also full of healthy happy fats, nutritionally speaking we are onto a winner.
This recipe ends up being more like a sesame butter than traditional tahini, because I use white, hulled sesame seeds which I lightly toast in a pan before I grind them, and then eventually blend with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Seeds with their husk left on (unhulled) can be used if you’re after an extra dose of calcium and don’t mind a slightly stronger flavour, or black seeds if you like a side of visual drama (it does look pretty amazing). Toasting the seeds enhances their nutty flavour and releases some natural oils that lend themselves to a creamier texture once ground. Again – all down to personal preference.
Now I find this stuff comes in pretty handy when I’m looking for something to add an earthy depth to a dish such as roast pumpkin and lentil salad (think salad dressing or drizzle), or to jazz up a simple snack like sliced apple. I think it goes well with basically anything sweet, and I particularly love it with banana and honey on toast (peanut butter has been replaced!), or atop a bowl of warm porridge with spiced pear.
1 cup of white, hulled sesame seeds
2 – 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
A good pinch of sea salt
1. Toast your sesame seeds in a pan over medium heat for around 5 minutes or until they begin to brown and become fragrant.
2. Using a powerful food processor (such as a Vitamix or Nutribullet) grind your sesame seeds for a minute or two, until they resemble seeds no longer! You may have to stop and start a couple of times and give the mixture a bit of a stir. (It will be very thick and dry at this stage – don’t worry, olive oil will come to the rescue, although some people actually prefer it like this.)
3. Add your sea salt, and begin to add the extra virgin olive oil, two teaspoons at a time, blending in between each addition. Again you may need to get your spatula out and do some side scraping. As you add more oil, naturally you’ll find it starts to come together quite well and when you’ve added two tablespoons let it blend for 2 – 3 minutes (step AWAY from the food processor).
4. Taste and adjust! If you want it a little thinner, add more oil and keep blending.
It’s best stored in the fridge and will keep for a few weeks. (If it it lasts that long!)