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Sesame, Halva & Tahini (sesame paste)
What is sesame?

Sesame are the seeds that come from the Sesamum indicum plant which was first recorded in botanical history in Babylon nearly 4,000 years ago. Since then, sesame has attracted not only the attention of man, but also his taste buds, while it is an excellent source of calcium and protein.
Sesame seeds (or sousami) comprise raw material for the production of sesame, tahini (sesame paste) and halva.

How is sesame produced?

Today, the largest production worldwide of sesame is in India. Sesame was first introduced to Europe in the 1st century, as a product imported from India. The Africans brought it to America when they were sent as slaves in the 17th century. Many hours are needed to gather it, because its harvesting is nearly exclusively by hand – a reason why it is not produced in Greece anymore. Quality sesame from Sudan is usually consumed in Greece, with a strict selection of only golden sesame seeds. (The flavour of golden sesame differs from that of black sesame: golden sesame is sweet, while black sesame is slightly bitter).

In which national cuisines is sesame used?

Sesame seeds are used in bakery, confectionaries and candy making in many parts of the world. Americans use sesame on their hamburger breads, while Jews use them on bagels. The Chinese mix it with pasta and vegetables. The Japanese make a range of sweets with sesame. In India, sesame is called “til”, while in Africa, it is called “been”. In Syria and Lebanon, sesame is mixed with thyme and sumac to prepare a seasoning which is called “za’atar”. Sushi is seasoned with white or black sesame, as well as various rolls in the Japanese and Korean cuisine. Also, in Japan, sesame is the base of a sauce that is served with rice or noodles. The Chinese use it in everything. In Mexico, sesame oil is very popular. They call it ajonjoli and widely use it in the kitchen. The Arabs, as the Greeks, enjoy sesame paste, tahini, based on which (and with a little imagination) very delicious sauces and unusual recipes are made. It is amazing when used with lemon and garlic, but also with roasted Florina red capsicums, as with various hot peppers.

Is food with sesame good for our health?

Sesame is rich in Vitamin E, which is considered to be miraculous since it protects us from arteriosclerosis, helps in reducing the risk of cancer, is necessary for the proper function of our immune system, helps in the prevention of cataracts, reduces the risk of diabetes, slows down the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, increases athletic performance and, in general, increases our life span.

Sesame lignans strengthen the effect of Vitamin E. Sesame and its products have the ability of reducing cholesterol in the blood and, therefore, protect us from heart disease because of the dual role sesame has. Sesamine is the only known substance that simultaneously stops not only the absorption of cholesterol from food, but also its concentration in the human organism. It has been found that other sesame lignans, pinoresinol, have anti-hypertensive properties. Last, sesame substances improve the function of the liver, by helping it dissolve toxic substances, such as ethanol (spirit).

Scientific studies confirm the prevailing traditional view that sesame, tahini and halvas are good for health, long life and, in general, a good quality of life.

What is tahini?

Tahini is an oil paste that comes from grinding the peeled and toasted (roasted) sesame. It is the basic ingredient of halva and is mainly known in countries of the Middle-East as a basic ingredient of many popular dishes and salads.
It is a natural product, made without additives and is an ideal and complete meal that strengthens health.

What is the shelf-life of tahini?

Tahini is excellently preserved for 2 years from its production date.

Is tahini useful in cooking?

Because of sesame’s beneficial properties, tahini is a first class everyday product that can be used in many ways, both in cooking, as well as in confectionaries. Therefore, it is an excellent first ingredient for dips or salads (chickpea salad with tahini (humus) could be mentioned, eggplant salad with tahini or even plain tahini salad), while it can be used in sauces by replacing egg-lemon.

However, its application is not limited only to cooking. It is widely used in confectionary production. Standard uses are in preparing tahini pie, various cakes and tahini cookies and lots of other methods that depend on our appetite and our imagination. It is a unique solution, mixed with honey, for a breakfast that fully offers energy and good health to the whole family.

Why do the ingredients of tahini separate after some time?

Simply because the sesame paste settles down and the sesame oil, which is lighter than the paste, surfaces. This is natural and does not cause changes in the product. Simply gently shake the container before use, so that the mixture becomes smooth again.

What is halvas?

Halvas is a traditional Greek food and is particularly popular in the Middle-East and in North Africa. Its popularity spreads through Eastern Europe and Russia and, to a lesser extent, the rest of Europe and the US. Halvas is consumed in these countries as a dessert, with cinnamon or lemon.

It is used as a snack for children as a sandwich. Halvas is made of tahini (60%) and a mixture of sugars. Therefore, it contains a relative percentage of the ingredients of tahini (60%). Halvas is a good source of inorganic elements.

What is the shelf-life of halva?

Halvas is excellently preserved for 3 years from its production date.

How is halvas made?

First of all, the sesame is immersed in salted water. It puffs up, loses its peel and all foreign bodies. The peeled sesame floats and then is gathered. It is rinsed two to three times so that it loses its saltiness and then it is cooked. The cooked sesame is then grinded and tahini is made. Sugar and water are stirred in a large pot and cooked until all the fluids have gone and the mixture turns into a candy. When the candy reaches one hundred and fifteen degrees, it is mixed with the tahini and then it is blended. at this point, other ingredients (almonds, chocolate, cocoa, etc.) are gradually added and they are all blended evenly with the halvas. The halvas is then weighed, cut and packaged.

What is a sesame pastelli?

A healthy snack of selected sesames, that stands out for its deliciousness and its ingredients’ unique characteristics. It is 67% sesame, while its wonderful flavour is completed by yet another product of nature, honey. It is naturally made, without chemicals or other additives, with the valuable sesame seed and contains all the nutritional properties of the seed.

Is a good pastelli hard or soft?

Pastelli may have more honey (and therefore is softer) or more sesame (and therefore is more crunchy). The type of pastelli depends on our personal preference and has nothing to do with its quality.

What is nut pastelli?

While the tradition of pastelli with sesame and honey is more popular, for many years pastelli has been offered with different nuts (almonds, hazel-nuts, walnuts, peanuts, etc.) instead of sesame, or with a combination of sesame and nuts.

What is the mandolato?

Mandolato is a type of sweet with almonds; it is a typical Venetian sweet. During the Venetian rule, mandolato was the most favourite sweet of the aristocrats. Mandolato contains, apart from almonds, honey, sugar, and egg-whites. Its name is taken from the Italian word “mandorla” (almond) and today it is popular in the Ionian islands and in the islands of the Cyclades.


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