Sesame is the Matt Damon of seeds – quiet, shy and underappreciated
yet unquestionably tasty. 2014 might just be their year.
In Hinduism, the sesame seed stands for immortality. Eyebrows
sufficiently raised? Wait until you taste the halva recipe below.
Notions of everlasting life might come from the sesame’s stash of
lignans. These are a group of plant-based chemical compounds
associated with fighting cancer. Or perhaps such fancy can be
attributed to its bank of B vitamins? This is the vitamin responsible
for recharging batteries, massaging frayed nerves and mending
marriages. Not bad for half a cent per gram, and notably less than a
There’s a nice whack of omega oils to keep madam’s skin feverishly
soft, and zinc to boost monsieur’s libido. Take a bow Mother N!
Sesame also contains a fair dose of plant-based protein, without the
side serving of cholesterol. In fact, studies from Yale suggest that
sesame seed oil could help reduce the risk of arteriosclerotic lesions
(that’s Doctor speak for sticky arteries) and high blood pressure. The
trick is not to denature sesame oil by roasting or frying with it.
Look for cold-pressed, extra virgin sesame oil for maximum nutritional
benefit. Stonking good stuff. Try it with grated carrots, cumin and
raisins like Gwyneth Paltrow in her new health cookbook “It’s All
Tahini, the basis for halva, is a sesame seed paste with nothing else
added. This gloriously creamy spread is actually the second most
important ingredient in hummus, right after chickpeas. So chances are
you already have a jar in your cupboard. Tahini is used by millions
everyday from China to North Africa, and from India to Mexico. But not
so much in Derry or Dublin. But that’s about to change …
If you’re worried about acquiring dodgy hips later in life, brittle
bones or treacherous dance moves, then jack-up your calcium foods.
These include tinned salmon and sarnies, chickpeas, broccoli, figs,
sesame seeds, tahini, almonds, hazelnuts and green leafy veg.
We know that good bone health is intimately linked to what we eat. Dr
Marilyn Glenville, specialist in women’s health, is dubious about
dairy’s monopoly on ‘calcium’ in our diet. Why, Glenville asks, is our
rate of osteoporosis much higher than Japan’s rate? (where they don’t
even eat dairy?) A good question, worthy of further head-scratching.
Glenville is not alone. New York Times best-selling author, Dr Joel
Fuhrman, doesn’t rate dairy at all. Fuhrman’s medical research and
experience as a GP has entirely reversed his thinking about dairy.
So lets explore alternative sources of calcium, without having to
mourn our cheese board. Lucky for us, this halva is a great place to
3 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
up to 1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
Large 340g jar light tahini
About 10 roasted almonds / hazelnuts
4 dried figs, diced
On a very gentle heat, slowly melt the coconut oil. Remove from heat,
and stir in maple, vanilla and salt.
With a fork, beat through the tahini, nuts and figs. Smash a few
roasted hazelnuts to tickle the top. Scoop the halva mix into a small
rectangular container lined with cling film. Freeze for 5 hours,
remove cling, wrap in parchment, and store it there until the munchies
come calling. Do be careful cutting into this halva, as it’s fairly
solid straight out of the freezer. Expect the block to give 32
portions. And euphoria.