A firm fixture in Middle Eastern, Turkish, North African and Greek pastries, this sesame paste is used in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Christine Osmond

31 Aug 2020 - 11:04 AM  UPDATED 31 Aug 2020 - 11:05 AM

When buying tahini (or tahina), be aware that there are two main types. Hulled tahini is traditionally made by soaking sesame seeds, pounding and then soaking again to separate the bran from the kernels, which are roasted and ground. Unhulled tahini, made from the whole seed, is darker and more bitter but also richer in calcium. The flavour of both types can vary considerably, so it’s worth testing a few brands to find one you like. If buying hulled tahini, look for organic: the seeds will have been removed mechanically rather than chemically.

Sweet tooths, look for jars of tahini sweetened with chocolate (similar to chocolate hazelnut spread) or honey, available from Greek delicatessens. Spread on fresh bread, it’s nothing less than addictive!

Sesame seeds are rich in volatile oils that can go rancid, so keep tahini in the fridge after opening.

1. Tahini dressing
Crush 1 small garlic clove with sea salt to make a paste. Blend with ½ cup tahini, ½ cup water and 1/3 cup lemon juice, season to taste and adjust the consistency if necessary. To spice things up, add a good pinch of ground cumin, smoked paprika, sumac or cayenne pepper.

2. Whipped yoghurt, coriander and tahini sauce
Combine ½ cup thick Greek-style yoghurt, ¼ cup tahini, 1 small crushed garlic clove, the juice of 1 lemon and ¼ cup chopped coriander leaves. Season to taste and serve with grilled fish, falafel or fried chickpeas. You can substitute the coriander with parsley, mint or a smaller amount of dill.

3. Sesame mayonnaise
When making a 2 egg mayonnaise, add 1 ½ tbsp tahini and 2 tsp honey to the yolks. Stir 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds and 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley through at the end and thin with a little hot water if necessary. Try in deviled eggs or potato salad.

4. Red tahini
Puree roasted, peeled and seeded red capsicum with tahini, a little crushed garlic and a pinch each of hot smoked paprika and ground cumin. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve as an accompaniment to barbecued lamb or char-grilled vegetables.

5. Ocean trout with green tahini and fennel slaw
The zesty green tahini, packed with herbs, is tossed through the fennel slaw and works beautifully well with the richness of the pan-fried trout.

6. Sesame chicken and sautéed kale with miso tahini cream
Give chicken schnitzel an Asian twist by coating it with panko breadcrumbs and sesame seeds, and serving it with a creamy tahini sauce flavoured with miso and sesame oil.

7. Spread the love
Combine tahini with little pomegranate molasses, date syrup or honey and serve instead of butter on hot toasted crumpets or fruit loaf. Alternatively, spread the tahini over a plate, drizzle with any of the syrups and serve with pita bread and apple for scooping.

8. Tahini rosewater cream
Combine equal quantities of tahini and thick Greek-style yoghurt until smooth. Stir in honey or maple syrup to taste, then add a drop or two of rosewater. Serve with roasted rhubarb and sweet puff twists or poached stone fruits.

9. Tahini cakes with orange blossom glaze
These sweet Greek cakes are traditionally made during Lent because they contain no animal products. They are finished with a delicious orange blossom glaze and a sprinkling of pistachios.

10. Sweet cheese, tahini and chocolate flogeres
Flogeres are sweet filo rolls from Greece. They are really easy to make - and totally addictive! Save time by using premade chocolate tahini, available from Greek delis.

Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd.