Tahini is a raw sesame paste that is extracted by compressing the seed. I like its versatility and flexibility. It has a nutty umami to it, which reminds me of peanut butter or miso. For the Middle Eastern and North African-influenced food we cook at Berber & Q, there aren’t many dishes that aren’t enhanced by having some tahini on the side.
Most people have heard of tahina sauce, which is made when you add water, lemon juice and garlic to tahini paste and whisk it. It turns from something very oily to something more saucy and creamy. If you use top-grade tahini paste, all you need add is cooled water. This is what we do in our restaurant. Most cookery books will suggest adding lemon and finely chopped garlic.