Middle East is where some of the best quality tahini can be found. I love it freshly pressed. When still warm it slowly drips from the sesame grinder tap. If you’re lucky enough seller will let you steal some of those warm, sticky drops. You will find yourself licking fingers in the middle of crowded bazaar and the people will smile heartedly. Ajaneeb – they will say – foreigners. If they see you enjoy, they might treat you with another products that they happen to be selling: fume covered, dusty nuts, sugar soaked tiny donuts, layers of filo pastry topped with crashed pistachios or plumpy dried dates.
In the Middle East tahini is mostly combined with date molasses as a breakfast treat. It remains an essential addition to some of the most common appetizers, such as chickpea hummus, eggplant mutabbal or fava bean foul. Jordanians mix it with yogurt and pour over minced lamb. Likewise Lebanese and Syrians whose tahini-yogurt tarator sauce I enjoy a lot. Sesame paste is also a big thing in Israel/Palestine, especially mixed with various spices such as basil, thyme, sun dried tomatoes or cumin.
After all, recipe for this cauliflower tahini curry is inspired by the Middle East and influenced by Sichuan cuisine. I really like Sichuan pepper that numbs your tongue. I’m not sure whether any other spice can compete when it comes to this weird sensation. Chinese cuisine is all about finding aurea mediocritas, balance between various elements. This being the case, the recipe combines sourness of rice vinegar, saltiness of dark soy sauce, sweetness of honey and spiciness of Turkish chili flakes. In addition, roasted green chilies give it an additional twist and depth. Tahini remains a background, and adds a nutty flavor that carries all the sweetness and spiciness.
It takes about 45 minutes to prepare this curry which makes is an ideal meal for quick weeknight dinners.
Roast chili peppers in advance and freeze them. Roasting will add to their flavor and ensure it’s preserved once frozen. You can use it in any other dish.
Soak fresh bread in the chili sauce that remained on your baking tray and enjoy its mild spiciness.
Cauliflower tahini curry
Preparation time: 45 minutes
1 kg cauliflower, broken into small florets
150 ml tahini
400 ml coconut milk
1 onion, finely chopped
½ tbsp. sweet chili flakes (Turkish Aci Biber)
5 cardamon pods
5 Sichuan pepper pods (optionally)
1 cinnamon stick
3 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
2 green chili peppers, roasted
Olive oil for roasting
Ghee/butter for frying
Serve with: sesame seeds, sesame oil and finely chopped parsley. I believe this curry goes really well with butter naan but it’s your choice in the end.
- Preheat the oven to 220 C. Toss green chilies in olive oil, season and bake for 25 minutes. Stir from time to time.
- Fry onion in melted ghee until it becomes translucent (medium heat).
- Add your spices and let it fry for about 1 minute or until you can smell their fragrance.
- Toss in cauliflower florets and cook for about 5 minutes making sure that they’re all coated in spices.
- Pour in coconut milk, tahini, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey and cook for about 25 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Once cooked, stir in roasted green chilies.
- Season to taste, finish with sesame seeds, few drops of sesame oil and finely chopped parsley.