Whenever I see a bottle of tahina, I almost instinctively think of a bowl of creamy hummus. It is only recently that this ground sesame paste has entered my consciousness in a different, surprisingly sweet, light.
It all began with spotting a dense chocolate brownie with a dash of tahina sauce at Wild Peeta three years ago. The combination of sesame paste and chocolate seemed shocking, even nauseating. It reminded me of the tahina halwa aisle that my trolley always strategically skids away from in Carrefour. But a few bites in, I was completely won over. The tahina acted like a speed-bump for the rich brownie crumbs, its grainy texture making them linger on my tongue with deep chocolate flavour.
The second revelation was at Yildiz Saray (04 252 2412), a modern Turkish restaurant that swirled a beige strand of tahina alongside a sweet, cheese kunafa pie. The savoury paste amplified the sweetness of the pie, making this duo dance in the same seductive way as salt waltzes with caramel, or hot chocolate spirals with paprika. The third time clinched the dessert deal – a simple tahina drizzle over sticky dates at an Emirati restaurant, Al Fanar (04 232 9966).
Desserts with tahina are like the Mad Hatter in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. You might raise an eyebrow at first, but the sweet nuttiness of it all just grows on you a few bites into the show.
Last Sunday, I concocted a date and tahina cake after cobbling together various recipes on the internet. Instead of sugar and butter, the cake called for maple syrup and tahina. The result? A dense and subtly sweet cake with a moistness that coated my tongue in an intriguing, half-baked-cookie-dough sort of way. The tahina cake is still a work in progress, but you can be sure that in my book of desserts, this nutty Mad Hatter ingredient is here to stay.
Arva Ahmed founded Frying Pan Adventures (www.fryingpanadventures.com), taking people on tours through hidden culinary gems in Dubai
Follow us @LifeNationalUAE