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Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds with a smooth creamy texture. It is a well-known ingredient in North African, Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisines, where it is used in dips, hummus and dressings.
It is an excellent source of copper and manganese and a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, selenium and essential fats.
Tahini comes in two forms: hulled (where the seed casing has been removed) and unhulled (made from the whole seed). Both are high in protein and good fats, but unhulled tahini is deeper in colour and flavour and has more calcium and fibre.
Of all the nuts and seeds, sesame seeds are the highest in tryptophan, which is important in the production of serotonin (healthy mood) and melatonin (sleep).
I love to use tahini in a dressing over blanched vegetables such as asparagus and broccolini. Simply add 2 Tbsp tahini, 1 Tbsp tamari/soy sauce, 3 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp warm water and 1 clove of garlic, crushed. Mix together in a bowl and drizzle over vegetables for an instant flavour and nutritional boost.
Tahini is also wonderful in bliss balls and lends itself to sweet chocolatey flavours.
Caramel and chocolate bliss balls
This recipe also has dates, which are very high in natural sugars. These bliss balls are best stored in the freezer for the occasional treat.
Makes about 15 balls
3 Tbsp tahini
9 fresh medjool dates, pitted
3 Tbsp raw cacao/cocoa powder
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp chia seeds
¾ cup (120g) raw almonds
pinch of salt
½ cup cacao nibs
Place the tahini, dates, cacao powder, vanilla, chia seeds, almonds, salt and half of the cacao nibs in a food processor and process for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture comes together.
Roll tablespoons of the mixture together into balls, then roll in the remaining cacao nibs, pressing to secure. Store in fridge or freezer.
-By Deanna Copland