How to turn the dregs of a tahini jar into a delectable dressing – recipe

<span>Tom Hunt's tahinia jar sauce with braised chard, aubergine and chickpeas.</span><span>Photograph: Tom Hunt/The Guardian</span>
Tom Hunt's tahinia jar sauce with braised chard, aubergine and chickpeas.Photograph: Tom Hunt/The Guardian

Tahini, or tahinia, is an intense, rich sauce made from pounded sesame seeds that features very prominently in my friend Fadi Kattan’s new book, Bethlehem: A Celebration of Palestinian Food, in which there are recipes for, among others, tahinia shortbread and an aubergine and braised chard salad that inspired this week’s recipe.

One of my favourite new kitchen tricks is to make sauces and dressings from the remnants of jars. Most things packed in a jar stick stubbornly to the sides and bottom, unwilling to be budged, but with a little ingenuity they can be turned into something new, valuable and delicious, and in the process leave the compost bin empty and/or the drain clear. Tahini is particularly obstinate, and often sticks like concrete to the bottom of its jar or pot. Add a little lemon juice, however, and give it a shake to “wash” the insides, and you have the makings of an easy and tasty dressing for salad, or to serve with grilled vegetables or braised chard.

Tahinia jar sauce (with optional braised chard, aubergine and chickpeas)

Fadi is a dear friend and Franco-Palestinian chef who lives in Bethlehem; he also runs Akub, a restaurant in west London, where he and his team celebrate Palestinian culture and cuisine. This recipe is inspired by one in his new book, called braised silek (AKA chard) with tahinia. I adapted it to make the most of what we had in the kitchen, and added aubergine and chickpeas to turn it into a filling meal. We didn’t have any lemons to make the tahinia jar sauce, so I used wine vinegar instead, which worked very well – any nice, subtle vinegar will do the trick, so try apple cider, white-wine or sherry vinegar. That said, if you have lemons, fresh lemon juice is best.

For the tahinia jar sauce (serves 2-4)
1 tahini jar with 2-4 tbsp of tahini left in it
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
, or wine vinegar
1 very small garlic clove, peeled and crushed

For the braised chard, aubergine and chickpeas (optional; serves 2 as a main course)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large aubergine
, cut into large cubes
4 garlic cloves
, peeled and finely sliced
1 large bunch chard
, or other greens, trimmed and roughly chopped
400g tin chickpeas, drained (240g)
2 tsp sumac, plus extra to finish
1½ tbsp lemon juice
, or wine vinegar
¼ tsp dill or lovage seeds (optional)
1 tsp coriander seeds
, ground
1-2 tsp chilli flakes

Take the near-empty tahini jar and add roughly half the amount of lemon juice (or wine vinegar). Drop in the garlic and mix, then add two tablespoons of water and mix again until smooth, pushing any tahini from the sides of the jar into the sauce. Add a little more water at a time, mixing until smooth after each addition, and repeat until the dressing has the consistency of double cream. Season with a pinch of salt to taste and serve. Keep any leftovers in the fridge, where they will last for up to a week.

To make the braised chard, aubergine and chickpeas, put two frying pans on a medium heat and pour two tablespoons of olive oil into each.

In one pan, fry the aubergine cubes on one side, until browned, then turn, cook until nicely browned all over and cooked through, then take off the heat.

In the other pan, fry the sliced garlic just until it turns a light, nutty brown, then quickly lift it out of the pan and set aside to use as garnish later.

Stir the chopped chard into the hot oil left in the garlic pan, add the chickpeas, fried aubergine, a splash of water, the sumac, lemon juice and dill or lovage seeds, if using, then stir in the ground coriander and chilli flakes to taste, cover the pan and cook for about eight minutes, until the chard is wilted and tender.

Lift off the lid, cook until any juices have evaporated, then spoon on to a platter and top with lots of the tahini jar sauce, the crisp garlic and, if you like, an extra sprinkling of sumac.

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