If you like tahini, you’ll love these cookies. I don’t feel as if I should even have to write that sentence, since as far as I’m concerned tahini is one of the most delicious substances known to man and no opportunity to eat it should ever be missed, but people do exist who do not like it. I know, because I had dinner with one of them on Saturday night and she declared a houmous to be ‘too tahini-y’.
So, assuming that everyone who’s still reading likes tahini (chances are if you don’t you didn’t even get past the title of this post), these cookies are amazing. Sweet, but with that ethereal, nutty sesame taste that always makes me want to keep on eating something. They’re a great coffee or tea biscuit – crunchy, a little bit crumbly but not too much, with a bit of chew in the centre. There’s a handful of walnuts in there too, for interest, though I think you could easily leave them out. Or maybe substitute them for sultanas or chopped pistachios – I’m thinking the biscuit equivalent of halva here.
While we’ve got the tahini jar out, I thought I’d mention a few of the other things that I like to do with it. None of them are really recipes so much as ideas, but they’re worth knowing about if you’re tired of houmous and cookies (seems unlikely, I know but…) and you’re wondering what else to do with that brown-cream sludge in your fridge.
1. On toast: tahini is a great topping for toast. It has that sort of unctuous mouth-coating quality that peanut butter has and goes well with tomatoes, for a savoury version, or try it with molasses or honey for something sweet.
2. In a similar vein, a spoonful of tahini and a spoonful of honey in thick plain yoghurt is a simple but delicious pudding, or indeed breakfast.
3. In ice-cream: semi-defrost a tub of vanilla ice-cream until soft and beat in 2 tablespoons tahini. Put it back in the freezer. Voila, tahini ice-cream!
4. Tahini sauce: mix 150ml tahini with a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and a couple of spoonfuls of lemon juice and thin with water to a pourable consistency. Add more lemon juice to taste and more water as necessary – thinner makes a good salad dressing, thicker makes a good sauce for meat or fish. We had it last week over cod – just warm it slightly over the fish when it’s almost done. A good healthy tasty dinner.
Tahini cookies Makes 24
120g caster sugar
50g soft dark brown sugar
190g plain flour
1 level tsp baking powder
145g walnuts, chopped
Heat the oven to 180c. Cream the butter, both sugars and tahini together until light and fully blended. Add the egg and beat well.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the same bowl and fold into the tahini mixture, along with the walnuts.
Shape small portions of dough into walnut-sized balls – it may seem a little crumbly, but don’t worry, it will become more malleable as you handle it. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of one hand and place on a couple of greased baking trays.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and firm at the edges. Leave on the baking trays to cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
Adapted from Tess Mallos’ ‘The Complete Middle East Cookbook’.