Tahini has taken years to grow on me. I think it might be one those foods that you first either love or hate. Even if you do hate it, I still think you should give it another try. The first time I tried tahini I was disgusted. It just seemed like really bad peanut butter and I couldn’t work out why anyone would eat it. I gave tahini another chance a few years later in a cake and really didn’t like it! But I didn’t so much HATE it. It wasn’t until years later that I became a full-on convert when I tried the tahini sauce at Ottolenghi in Islington, paired with juicy-fried aubergine slices. Such garlicky and great-tasting tahini sauce that was. These days, I use tahini all the time, at any chance I get . Most often, I crush a little garlic with salt, whisk in some tahini and add a dash of water. This elixir is just divine served with baked or grilled fish, or sometimes I add a bit of ground up nuts and then use it as a salad dressing for farro. Yummo.
I must admit, I’ve always been a bit of a conservative and have mostly stuck to using tahini in savoury dishes. But boy was I missing a trick; tahini can really lift a bored or tired bake. I think I’ve made these particular tahini biscuits about four or five (!) times this year and for someone who really despises making recipes over and over again that’s really saying something. This recipe is from Ruby Tandoh, most known for being a finalist in The Great British Bake-Off, but also now talented food writer. Her recipes are exactly what I look for: unexpected yet genius flavour combos and informative, unpatronising and well-crafted writing. With the masses of cookbooks being churned out these days, it is increasingly hard to find recipes that are different and still offer something of value, more than the ‘been there, done that’ ones, and I find myself turning more and more to Ruby Tandoh as a reliable source. These tahini biscuits remind me of these other really tasty tahini biscuits in one of my favourite cookbooks of all-time, Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. The thing that gives these biscuits another dimension of flavour is the lemon zest. Each time I make these biscuits, they always taste different depending on the size of the lemon or what kind of tahini was used. I like that a lot. These are so melt-in-your mouth and crumbly that you once to pop you won’t be able to stop. If I feel like I’m getting a bit boring, I sometimes go ‘crazy’ and add a bit of honey instead of the full amount of sugar for a slightly chewy texture. Another good addition is vanilla pod seeds instead of the lemon. Rebellious times!
Tahini lemon biscuits
Makes about 20–24
120 g butter, softened
120 g tahini
120 g sugar
zest of 1 or 2 lemons
240 g plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
pinch sea salt
Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Cream the butter, tahini and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in the lemon zest. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gently stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, using the back of a spoon to combine.
Roll out into balls and space them apart on the baking tray. Pat each down with your fingers, or use a fork to make a crosshatch patter on top of the biscuits. Bake for 12–15 minutes, or take it a bit further for more brownish edges like in the photo above. Remove from the oven and let them sit on the tray for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Dunk into a cuppa tea and enjoy!
(Recipe from Crumb by Ruby Tandoh, Chatto and Windus)