In a number of western cities, tahini is the trendy tastemaker of today, or at least five years ago, in hipster America. What happens there also ends up with us after a few years, such as brewed coffee and kale. However, the jars of tahini have long been on the shelves of Levantine shops in our city. I used to look at it and wonder what you were doing with it.
Some call tahini irreverent sesame peanut butter
Peanut butter from sesame
Tahini (tahini, tahina) is a sesame seed paste. Nothing to do with tagine, although, of course, you could also put tahini in a tagine. Some disrespectfully refer to tahini as “sesame peanut butter.” This is technically understandable and the origin is the same: sesame seeds, groundnuts or peanuts (groundnut), almonds, coconuts, palm nuts and poppy seeds are ancient oil crops. That oil used to be squeezed out – not just for cooking, oil was needed for many human activities.
Sesame from India
Of all these oil wells, sesame must be one of the oldest. So old that scientists don’t even know where it originated. Possibly in Africa, but one is not entirely sure. For science the plant is called Sesamum indicum, which means ‘sesame from India’. This plant belongs to the Pedaliaceae, a small family related to the legumes, the bean family so to speak. Sesame is therefore not a cereal. Most of the other plants of that family are of African origin, but they can also be found in India and even Australia.
Four thousand years ago, sesame was grown in Babylonia and Assyria. Now sesame seeds are harvested from China and India through the Middle East and Sudan to Brazil and Mexico. The latter two would be the largest producers. However, the hippest is the sesame from Ethiopia, even though that country has lost international sympathy in the last year.
After flowering, the plant produces seed pods that suddenly pop open (‘Sesame open you’) and spread their oil-rich treasure. The plants are therefore harvested just before maturity, so that they can pop open in a controlled space and the seed is not lost.
Without tahini, these specialties are a lot less attractive
So the oil was squeezed out. After that, press cake remains. Today, peanut and soya pressed cake is sold to livestock, where they are sometimes worth more than the oil itself. But of course you can also eat it yourself: peanut butter, tahini, tofu. The press cake is then made spreadable with cheaper oil.
What are you doing with it? You can of course spread tahini on the sandwich, but in the Middle East, where tahini is most commonly used in cooking, they usually don’t eat sandwiches. You can dilute it a bit with the gravy of the fried meat to make a delicious sauce. You can also mix them with the vegetables at the end of the stew: green beans with tahini, a touch of strong pepper and fish sauce, for example.
In the ordinary kitchen, tahini is mainly used in the very trendy chickpea puree hummus, but also in the trendy balls of bean puree: falafel. Without tahini, these specialties are a lot less attractive.
But think about tahini in pastries, in pie fillings, in marinades. Just about everything gets better. Tasty.
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Tahini: peanut butter but from sesame – In hip circles it sounds like an obligation – Foodlog