It’s the black sesame seeds which make this dish, at least visually.
All sesame plants have the same colour hull and fruit, but according to the cultivar the colour of the flowers will change – they can be white, blue, purple, or a bright fuschia. The seeds will also be different. The most common are off-white, but there are also gold, brown, rust, grey…and black.
Taste-wise there is little difference – the off-white seeds are sweet and nutty, while the black seeds are a little bitter, but once both have been roasted (most are, prior to sale) the difference is minimal.
Black sesame seeds are said to produce a higher quality oil….and also to reduce grey hair!
Why did the 40 thieves use ‘open sesame’ as the password to their treasure cave in the Arabian Nights story about Ali Baba? Apparently because, on maturity, the seed pod of the sesame plant splits open.
Recipe for spinach with ricotta and black sesame seeds
- 1 onion
- 100g/4 oz ricotta
- 1 tsp smoked salt (or even better a teaspoon of Marmite)
- Urfa pepper flakes, or freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
- Walnut or sesame oil
- 500g/1 lb 2 oz spinach
- Olive oil for frying
- Warm a little olive oil in a wok (or large frying pan).
- Peel and chop the onion, and fry gently.
- Take the tough stems off the spinach.
- Once the onion is translucent, add the spinach – it will fill the wok. Keep turning it – it will quickly reduce in size.
- Grind over the nutmeg, the salt (or Marmite – dissolved in a little hot water), and the Urfa pepper flakes, or pepper.
- Once it’s cooked down, serve with the ricotta crumbled into the middle, a drizzle of the walnut or sesame oil, and some black sesame seeds sprinkled over the creamy ricotta.
Arabian Music – Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves – Brandon Fiechter