In this article we will tell you what sesame paste is. We will describe its taste, smell and color, and also give a homemade recipe.
- 1 Unforgettable sesame
- 2 Composition and calorie content
- 3 Benefits and contraindications
- 4 Use in cooking
- 5 How to choose tahini paste
Sesame has been known in the East since ancient times. Its name, known from the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, comes from the Assyrian “shamash shammu” – “plant that produces oil.”
For tens of centuries, residents of Western Asia extracted oil from sesame seeds by squeezing them under pressure. But gradually the cake – a waste product of oilseed production – found such widespread use that today sesame oil itself can be considered a by-product.
Sesame cake, additionally ground into a homogeneous paste, is called tahini or tahina. Regulars of Turkish resorts know it as tahine.
Accordingly, on store-bought jars in Turkey you can read “Tahin”, and in the Arab East and Israel “Tahini”, which simply means “tahini”.
To prepare tahini paste, sesame seeds are pressed without additional sublimation, unlike, for example, sunflower seeds. This is yet another proof that the main product is paste and not oil.
After squeezing, there is still quite a lot of oil left in the mass. Therefore, its thin layer is clearly visible in store bottles. This is normal, because it indicates the good quality and naturalness of the product.
But at the same time it also indicates that the paste has been a little over-aged, which means you need to check the production date and expiration date.
Before use, the oil layer can be mixed with the total mass (it is useless to shake!) or use the oil for salad dressing. Or as a nourishing face cream, as Arab women have been doing for many centuries.
Tahini paste: taste and smell
Before grinding, sesame seeds are heat treated. This can be quick frying on a hot surface, heating with constant stirring in special drums, or treatment with a stream of hot air. The oil is then extracted from the seeds and the cake is ground into a paste.
The taste of the paste depends on the type of preparation, as well as the type of sesame and the degree of grinding, and it is not very pleasant: too oily and a little cloying.
Without flavoring additives, even the best paste made from well-roasted and thoroughly ground seeds only vaguely resembles the exquisite taste of tahini halva or hummus.
In addition, manufacturers can use either shelled or unhulled sesame seeds in thin brown husks.
The paste made from unpeeled seeds has a rougher taste, even a little bitter, but is appreciated by amateurs and has earned more favorable reviews from nutritionists for its particularly rich content of minerals and vitamins.
The color of the paste made from peeled seeds is light nutty or grayish-white, the taste is more delicate. It can be used even without additional preparation.
But the smell does not need improvement: a light smell of roasted nuts with a hint that is sometimes described as “millet porridge with milk.”
Composition and calorie content
As a basis for preparing various dishes and sauces, you can buy pure sesame paste in stores, which contain “100% sesame seeds.”
It is very high in calories due to the high content of residual oil after pressing. 100 g of standard quality product contains from 45 to 55% fat. This provides from 570 to 600 kcal – a quarter of the daily value for the average city dweller.
In addition to the fatty component (vegetable oil), ground sesame contains 19% proteins and up to 18% carbohydrates.
Benefits and contraindications
In the United States, “health food stores” appeared already at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1940, they began selling tahini paste, which Americans were introduced to by immigrants from the Middle East.
Vitamins and microelements
Sesame successfully competes with nuts in terms of the content of nutrients. Studying the paste from its ground grains, scientists determined that it is rich in B vitamins (from B1 to B9), vitamins C, E, PP, and contains significant quantities of iron, magnesium, copper and phosphorus.
It is especially rich in calcium (970 mg per 100 g – no less than in hard cheese) and zinc (10 mg per 100 g). The presence of zinc makes tahini a “female product” – it is responsible for the beauty of hair and is useful for the epidermis, i.e. the upper skin.
Like other unrefined vegetable oils, sesame oil contains many beneficial acids (omega 3, 4, 6) and transfers them to tahini paste.
88% of the fatty acids it contains are polyunsaturated, i.e., those that are well absorbed, help in the fight against bad cholesterol and do not impede metabolism.
Additionally, in pasta, this benefit is enhanced by the fiber necessary for proper digestion.
Sesame paste contains methionine, which cleanses the liver, and substances that help burn excess fat. As well as antioxidants (including specific and very powerful sesamin), pectins, amino acids, phytin (very useful for normalizing the balance of minerals), etc.
Those who decide to use tahini as a therapeutic or prophylactic remedy should be wary of the high calorie content of the product.
We must remember that an excess of even healthy fats is poorly tolerated by the liver and pancreas. This can cause unpleasant consequences in the form of pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
And, of course, allergic reactions are possible. Therefore, you should evaluate how the body reacted to the first acquaintance with the sesame delicacy.
Use in cooking
It is not customary to eat sesame paste in its pure form: it is too bland and too greasy. But it maintains the taste of the additives well, and the body habitually perceives increased fat content as a natural sign of appetizing food.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of sesame paste recipes. In the classic, i.e. the simplest version, to turn ground sesame seeds into tahini sauce, the resulting thick mass is diluted with very cold water (since paste soaked in oil reacts to any heat, changing its taste) to the consistency of liquid sour cream.
Then add lemon juice, garlic paste or garlic oil, and salt. The taste of homemade sauce can be varied with any additives, making it sweeter, more sour, more spicy. It usually depends on what the sauce is eaten with.
Ingredients of classic tahini sauce
- Sesame (seeds) – 1/2 cup
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Sol – 0.5 h. l.
If sesame is purchased in Russia, it will most likely turn out to be a little dry. Then you will have to add 1 tbsp. a spoonful of any refined vegetable oil. Olive oil can be either refined or extra virgin.
- Place sesame seeds in a preheated frying pan and heat them for 3 minutes, stirring constantly so as not to burn. The degree of frying can be adjusted in the future, as this affects the taste of the sauce.
- Grind sesame seeds to a paste. If the mass turns out to be too crumbly, you will have to add oil, pouring it in a thin stream while stirring.
- Add lemon juice and salt to the resulting mixture.
Tahini paste appears in recipes for a wide variety of dishes and confectionery products. But if in the East sesame is used for halva along with sunflower seeds, then tahini paste must be present in any hummus recipe. Otherwise it won’t be hummus anymore.
It is more correct to call this Middle Eastern dish “hummus”, since in Arabic writing there is a doubling sign above the letter “m”.
But although you can often find exactly the correct version on jars in supermarkets, search engines diligently correct it for the version with one “m”.
For hummus, tahini paste is mixed with chickpea paste, ground to a similar consistency. It is from this additive that the dish got its name (from Arabic this word is translated both as “mutton chickpeas” and as “hummus (food)”).
The pea mass compensates for the fat content of the sesame paste. Usually a little olive oil is added to hummus. The sour-garlic flavor of tahini is enhanced by an additional portion of lemon juice and garlic.
What can be replaced
In homemade hummus, they sometimes try to replace tahini with crushed walnuts or peanut butter. But the taste will be completely different, more confectionery and is unlikely to be suitable for accompanying meat or vegetables.
How to choose tahini paste
According to experts, tahini paste produced in the countries of the Middle East, i.e., Lebanon, Israel, Syria or Jordan, best meets the taste and aroma standards.
There, tahini is used very widely, there are more connoisseurs and connoisseurs, which means there are more strict critics who strictly monitor the quality of the product.
In their opinion, what is contained in jars and bottles with the inscriptions “made in Turkey”, “in Greece” or “Cyprus” does not reach authentic quality either in taste or aroma.
In Egypt, there are different options and it is better to consult with experts or find a health goods store.
Tahini paste is classified as an “oil and fat product” and has a limited shelf life. Therefore, you must pay attention to the production date – the shelf life should not exceed 1 year.
Storage for two years (but no more) is possible only for opaque jars. Not only does the paste separate, but the oil inevitably deteriorates and goes rancid when exposed to sunlight.
Tahini is usually packaged in small containers for single use. But if there is still paste left in the open jar, you should not store it even in the refrigerator for more than two days.