Open Sesame!

Open Sesame!

Popular all over the world, this tiny, flat, and teardrop-shaped seed packs a powerful punch and not just flavour wise. Just Google the health benefits of one of the oldest condiments know to man and you will be amazed.

White, black, yellow, and red they come in 4 colours.

With their history that can be traced back to ancient India, Egypt, and Assyrian legends and even considered a symbol of immortality at one point. You know you’ve struck food gold when it comes to this delicate nutty wonder.

So how do you know if the sesame you’ve bought is fresh? Smell it. If old, the oil in the seeds will smell rancid. Valued for their high content of sesame oil the funny thing is the oil itself is resistant to rancidity. So it’s best to store the seed airtight in a cool, dark place or in the fridge and the oil in a dark cupboard too. 

In fact in my opinion this is the best way to store most nuts and oils.

Now for its culinary uses.

Let’s tackle this through the regions. I feel it’s always interesting to understand how the very same ingredient can be used in so many different ways all over our wonderful world. This is where man is at his best with his imagination.

Halva, zaatar, sweets, bread, or tahini spread in the Middle East (add some grape molasses and it makes a great snack on bread). In the Mediterranean region, they are used in cakes. In Africa, it is ground as a paste and served alongside mains or added to soups. In Asia on salads,** bakes, sweets, in sushi, etc. Ever tried Ellu Sadam or Sesame rice. Sesame is known as Ellu in Tamil and Kannada. In this traditional dish, where rice is mixed with a spicy powder made from sesame seeds and other ingredients and eaten on special occasions.

I have grown up eating it in Chikki (peanut brittle), ladoos, and chutneys.

It sits nicely as part of our dry chutney mix near the steaming idlis and the oils are used to temper many dishes and keeps our pickles lip-smackingly delicious.

Sesame oil made from toasted or untoasted sesame seeds is mostly popular in Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean cuisine. Think dim-sum, marinated meats, deep-fried tempura mixed oils, and tempering. Heaven!

Also known as Benne, it was brought by the Africans to America where it topped various types of bread and cookies. In North America, namely Mexico- in moles and adobos and flatbread. Nowadays unique ice cream parlors specialize in sesame seed ice creams. Drooling just imagining this.

But let’s make do with these delicious-Sesame seed cookies.👀

150 g plain flour

50 g caster sugar

Dash of salt

75 g unsalted butter

100 g tahini

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

25g honey

Zest of 1/2 lemon

A dash of vanilla

Sesame seeds to coat the cookies

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees. Line the baking sheets with baking paper.

After placing the flour and butter in a bowl rub them gently together until you have a crumbly mix. Stir in the sugar, salt, soda, and ground cardamom.

Now for the wet ingredients. 

In another bowl mix the tahini, vanilla, honey, and zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry one mixing a little at a time until you have a slightly wet dough.

Spread some sesame seeds on a plate. Wet your hands. Take the dough and roll it into small balls approximately 1 “ in size and then roll them in the plate with sesame seeds to fully coat the dough ball mix.

Flatten them a bit and place it on the already lined tray 2 “ apart.

Bake for 12 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container or hide them at the back of your kitchen cupboard away from the plain view of all your family members and eat them quickly.

*Cool fact- “Open Sesame”, the famous phrase from the Arabian Nights refers to the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when it reaches maturity.

Are you looking for that Sesame seed dressing I mentioned earlier? 

It’s really quick. It takes just 5 minutes.

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

4 tsp sesame seed oil

4 cloves chopped garlic 

4 tsp good quality soy sauce

4 tsp sugar granules

1 tsp chili flakes

1 tsp olive oil

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Mix it all in a jar. Except for the sesame seeds. 

Shake it and use it as a marinade, dressing, or over grilled fish and meat.

P.s.: I’d suggest that you make the dressing and keep it in the fridge overnight for a stronger flavour and if your vinegar is too sharp and not mild like apple cider vinegar please cut down on the amount of vinegar used.

 As always you can increase the quantity of the flavours you like, replace ones you don’t have for others and take away what doesn’t work for you.

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