- Open Sesame

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Open Sesame

Did you know that sesame seeds are believed to be one of the first condiments and first plants to be used for edible oil. A native to the East Indies it has been used for at least 5,000 years as a food source and oil.

Sesame seed oil is still the main source of fat in Eastern cookery.

An annual herb with flowers which mature into pods containing edible sesame seeds that burst with a pop when the seeds are mature. Seeds come in several colours depending on plant variety, most common are pale ivory coloured. The darker seeds are said to have more flavour, but care should be taken, seeds can be dyed to give richer colours.

Although sesame seeds contain no cholesterol, they are still 50% unsaturated fat however a small amount goes a long way in flavouring foods. They have high magnesium content and contain over three times the calcium of a comparable measure of whole milk. The seeds are also rich in Vitamin A, E and protein.

Sesame seeds have a nutty, slightly sweet flavour and aroma which is enhanced by roasting. Due to their high oil content, the seeds can become rancid so it's best to purchase them in small amounts and use quickly. Un-refrigerated seeds can be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to three months, refrigerated up to six months or frozen up to one year.

Sesame oil, on the other hand, is remarkably stable keeping for years without turning rancid. To bring out the nutlike flavour of sesame seeds, spread seeds on a baking tray and toast 350f/175c/Gas 4 for 15-20 minutes.

Sesame seeds are ground to make paste Tahini which can be purchased from Health Food shops and some supermarkets.

Tahini can be used as a spread, when mixed with water, oil and garlic it can be used as a dip or cold sauce. Hummus is made from a blend of Tahini, ground chickpeas, olive oil, garlic and lemon.

Halva a tasty sweet is often made from ground sesame seeds and honey and can be purchased in health food shops. Some makes add a lot of sugar so always check the ingredients. 'Sunita' is a good make.

Egyptians eat Halva at breakfast believing it gives them strength. Despite being very partial to Halva I don’t think I could eat it first thing but I do grind sesame seeds to put on my muesli each morning and I can always have Halva later in the day!

Marilyn Willwohl

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