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Tahini, pursuing a waste-free home…and when things don’t go to plan

I am currently addicted to tahini. What started as distrust for its strong and distinctive flavour has gradually grown into full-on love, and now I can’t get enough of the stuff. I use it in hummous, in baking, as a salad dressing, to make potato salad, as a replacement for mayonnaise and butter. Mmm, it is delicious.

But it comes in a glass jar. In my quest for a zero-waste home I’m trying to cut out all unnecessary packaging, and the quicker I go through tahini, the more jars I end up with. (I re-use my glass jars rather than recycle them as they end up being used as road base here in Perth, which seems a waste to me. But there’s only so many jars that I need.)

The label on the jar proudly states “just natural hulled sesame seeds”. No added oil, salt or sugar. So, I figured, I can just blend some sesame seeds in a food processor and make my own.

Turns out, it isn’t that easy. The resulting mass was nothing like the glossy, runny, beautiful tahini I can buy in a glass jar. It was a grey, lifeless lump. Looks aren’t everything, I know. Sadly, the taste was pretty terrible too. Really bitter and quite unpleasant.

tahini

This is what I wanted…

tahinifail

…and this is what I got.

I’m wondering whether I should have roasted the sesame seeds. The jar doesn’t tell me that the seeds are roasted, but experience has taught me that roasted nut butters are infinitely better than raw ones. I think I’ll give it another go sometime, and toast the sesame seeds first.

In the meantime, I’ve been to the shop and bought myself a new jar of tahini. I’m going to try using the lump of ‘tahini fail’ in a tahini biscuit recipe that I make sometimes. I hope that the baking removes the bitter nasty taste. If not, the sugar and other ingredients should mask it.

Anyways, I thought I’d share with you, in case you’re feeling tempted to try to make your own tahini without consulting a recipe first. Which you’re probably not.

Ah well, we all have bad days!

Wakame gomasio: what it is and how to make it

I came across a recipe I wanted to try this weekend and one of the ingredients was wakame gomasio. I had no idea what this was. Even more mysteriously, the recipe had an alternative – sesame seeds. What kind of exotic fancypants ingredient with a name like that can be substituted simply with sesame seeds?

So I looked it up. It took me a while to find out what it was and how to make it, but now I know I thought I’d share it. Plus it’s super delicious so I think it’s worth knowing about!

Gomasio (which is also spelled gomashio) is basically a mix of toasted ground sesame seeds and salt. It’s a Japanese condiment that’s also popular in macrobiotic diets (something I don’t know a lot about). Sesame seeds are high in calcium, iron, magnesium and B vitamins (full nutritional information here).

Wakame is a sea vegetable that has been grown by Japanese and Korean sea farmers for centuries. It is an edible seaweed that is high in iodine, calcium and B vitamins (full nutritional information here). It’s also high in sodium so has a salty taste. My local health food store sells this in bulk (plastic-free!).

So wakame gomasio is wakame and gomasio. Fairly straightforward really!

How to make wakame gomasio

The hardest thing is probably finding the wakame, although I found it in several local health food stores. You could also try the Japanese section of your grocery store or online. It looks like this:

wakameIf you can’t find it (or don’t want to use it, simply omit and use the recipe to make gomasio).

Ingredients:

1 piece wakame (when ground should be roughly equal to 1 tbsp)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 tsp salt

Method:

Toast the wakame in an oven at 160°C for 10 minutes until dry and crisp.

Meanwhile, in a pan heat the sesame seeds on the lowest heat for 5-10 mins, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the seeds have changed colour from pale to golden. Try to remove them from the heat before they start to pop; if they do begin to pop remove from the heat immediately.

Add all the ingredients to a grinder or mortar and pestle, and grind until you have a coarse powder.

wakamegomasio wakamegomasio3And that’s it!

You can change the quantities of salt and wakame as you wish. If you aren’t using wakame, ratios of sesame seeds:salt can vary from 5:1 (found in commercially available varieties) to 18:1 for traditional Japanese gomasio. If you are using wakame, ratios for sesame seeds:wakame vary with 8:1 being an average. Start with this and adjust to find the combination that you like.

What to do with it

It’s a healthier alternative to salt, and it smells and tastes amazing. In Japan it’s used to season rice. The recipe I used it for was pastry. Feel free to try it whichever way you wish!