Tahini maybe a recent addition to our taste buds but the seed from which it is made is said to be one of the oldest crops in the world. Did you know that the tiny sesame seeds that we most often barely give a thought to is actually a high value cash crop !
Somehow it doesn’t really seem to figure in our nutritional scheme of things. And yet it is a nutrient powerhouse. Our nallennai as we know is made from a cold pressing of sesame seeds. The exact translation of the word from tamil to English means ‘good oil’. It is an oilseed with some of the highest oil content and are a great source of protein , dietary fibre along with being rich in vitamins and antioxidants like Vitamin B and olic acid.
There are a number of ways that we can include these little tasty specks in our diet. Allow me to take you on a culinary sesame laden journey ! A favourite sesame dish of mine is the ellu podi made by my sister-in-law Priya . It is usually served with a flavorsome poondu saadham. It’s one of those combinations that you can never tire of. It’s a great lunch box option as well and one that can be relished at any time of the year. Don’t forget to add a few drops of aromatic ghee before eating, it’s just divine ! Just writing this makes me want to remind her to make me a batch soon !
At home , I always keep a small bottle of toasted white sesame seeds. It makes for a great final topping for a carrot –cabbage salad or a green lettuce salad. The little bits are great to nibble on. They have that unmistakable nuttiness and are just as tasty when sprinkled on breads.
Eating it as a garnish is all well but it’s not enough if we want it to contribute to wellness. I wanted to figure out a way that it could be added to the Indian diet in a more filling way.
The answer to my thoughts came one morning when I sat down to breakfast at my friend Kavita’s home. Her breakfast menu is influenced by both the Tam Brahm and Coorg kitchens. We gorged on hot fluffy rava idlis accompanied by a delicious ellu pajji . The unmistakable taste of the roasted sesame married so well with the sweetness of grated coconut , all blended together with water , salt and spice. So simple but felt like a feast.
I cannot tell you how immensely satisfying it is to discover the myriad different ways that one single healthy ingredient can be adapted into making several dishes. That too ,with each one being completely different not only visually but also in taste and texture. I did indeed make the ellu chutney at home . It has already found it’s place among our line up of favourite chutneys. One can also play around with the flavours depending on individual preferences. One time I added a bit of garlic and some dried bright red Hassanur chillies and made it a thicker consistency. The result was a very appealing orange hued mix which was just as yummy.
The black sesame these days is more often associated with Japanese food. Seafood with a sesame crust is plated beautifully to show off the contrast in colour between the pale fish and the dark crust. Even the desserts often feature this seed. In our part of the world , I love to eat the black ellu when it is hand pounded with jaggery and ghee to make the delicious ellu urandai. To this day , it’s a sweet that makes me want to sit , savour and eat while thinking of all the people at home that were a part of my growing up years. It’s a great snack box option for the kids.
In the city of Beawar ,in Rajasthan they make amazing til patti (chikkis) which are sent to us by dear friends Neha and Gaurav Dani. The tuile like confection is so thin that it’s almost transparent. The sugar is still pale when the sesame and green pistachio flakes are added. So can you imagine how very delicate a sweet it is.Like thin glass speckled with bits of white and green that come sandwiched between circles of butter paper so it won’t stick to each other . They’re so crisp that you hear the crack when you break it off. It melts on the tongue leaving behind the crunch of the sesame and a slight after taste of cardamom just enough to refresh but not invade ! It’s a good thing they aren’t available here , I would never be able to resist.