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  • Locked thread
Mar 1, 2010

TRULY scientastic.

When I saw this ICSA theme, I was both excited and slightly perturbed. Excited, because I love an ICSA, but perturbed because I am not a massive fan of sesame… However, one of the things I really like about ICSA is how it forces me to do things that I wouldn’t normally. The challenge is what makes it interesting! So, I started thinking about what to make almost immediately the thread was posted…

Probably like a lot of people, my first thought was Asian food. But for a couple of reasons, I didn’t want to do this: It’s not really my forte, I thought it was a bit obvious and I am not experienced enough in it to know if I’m doing it well or not. So I went with cramming sesame into European food…

As is often the case, I decided to invite friends round for it and get them to judge me. The problem with this was that I had to get a meal out while they were here, regardless of how successfully I had fulfilled my original intentions. Every time I do this, I think it would have been a lot easier to just space the dishes out and cook them separately. As you will soon see, this became something an exercise in improvisation and making the best of a bad lot… And documenting the whole thing!

One of the things I am most pleased with is that it occurred to me that there was no reason why sesame couldn’t be made into flour. I initially tried with a pestle and mortar, but this proved to be extremely difficult. But hey, I’m a modern man, these are modern times! I ordered about a kilo of it online and forgot all about my blistered hand. It became a key ingredient in almost every course.


Seedy armpit

Black sesame coated prawn on a hummus-topped pudding, with toasted sesame vinaigrette dressed cress

Hors d ’Oeuvre:
Butternut squash, pine nut and sesame filled tortellini, in a black sesame ink with pickled carrot ribbons

Skinless Italian sausage with a bean sesame stew, sesame polenta, parmesan tuile and hot sweet pepper sauce

Sesame orange cake with a sesame snap and toasted sesame orange custard

White sesame Cuban

This was the actual menu, anyway. The plan was slightly different, as I will explain as we get to each course where my reach exceeded my grasp.

The friends I invited round were Peregrine, who is an incredibly posh self-described foodie, his self-diagnosed gluten-intolerant wife Het and my son’s godfather Will, who seriously loves sesame and helped me in the kitchen by tasting things. And my wife was there of course. She’s game to try most things since battle corn…

Anyway, onwards!

Seedy armpit

Based on a hairy armpit, which is equal parts ouzo and grapefruit juice. I got it into my head that this would work well with sesame flavour, and decided to make it!

1 pink grapefruit
100g sesame seeds
60g sugar

Begin by making sesame milk. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat for 5-10m, remove from the heat and cover until cool.

Put the seeds and sugar in a blender, and cover with water.

Blend until smooth.

Strain through cheesecloth.

Chill juice until needed.

When ready to drink, juice the grapefruit and put ingredients into a cocktail shaker.

1 part ouzo
1 part sesame milk
1.25 parts grapefruit juice

I thought this was delicious. The toasted sesame seed, grapefruit and ouzo flavours worked really well together. Will said that it was good, but that he probably wouldn’t have used ouzo. Peregrine despised it, because of a trick we had played on him a long time ago, wherein he drank an entire pint of ouzo and was heartily sick. He’s a game lad, so he tasted it, but did not like it one bit… The women both loved it; we drank loads and ate all the canapes while reminiscing about university.

Black sesame coated prawn on a hummus-topped pudding, with toasted sesame vinaigrette dressed cress

Everyone loves hummus, so it would have been completely remiss not to include it in a sesame based challenge… And prawns are almost always a good idea.

First, the hummus:

100g white sesame seeds
1 tin chickpeas
2 cloves garlic
Toasted sesame oil
1 lemon

Grind the sesame seeds in a pestle and mortar to release as much oil as possible.

Mince the garlic, chuck the garlic, drained chickpeas and ground sesame seeds into a large bowl with a dash of toasted sesame oil, the juice of the lemon and a sprinkle of cumin.

I mashed it up with a fork to keep it a bit rough and chunky, but you could blend it if you wanted.

Leave to chill while you make the puddings…

These canapes were originally supposed to be on little blini, but this was a disaster.

So I abandoned this plan, and thought… My thinking led me to Yorkshire, where the heathen Northmen make puddings.

The batter is basically the same, but because I was making it up as I went by this point, I have no idea how much of each thing I used…

Sesame flour
1 egg
Whole milk
Melted butter

Mix the whole lot in a blender and leave to stand for at least 30m.

Put a little oil in each well of two six well muffin trays (or any combination that leads to 12 muffins), and place in the oven to heat at 180°C.

Once the oil is really hot and close to smoke point, add a small ladleful of batter to each well and put in the oven to cook for about 15m.

Take the trays out, allow the puddings to cool in the tray and flip them out when you can.

About five hours before anyone started to even think about contemplating allowing attending my flat to cross their mind, I started a small fire outside, so that I could barbecue my prawns, which had been marinating in honey and black sesame seeds.

Once people arrived, I hollowed out the puddings, loaded with some hummus and barbecued my prawns.

As I’m sure you can appreciate, barbecuing prawns at night was quite challenging, but I managed it alright.

When I was planning this dish, I came up with something that would blow the minds of my guests, knock your loving socks off and win me the whole competition. I decided to garnish my canape with sesame sprouts!

A week before the competition, I soaked a mixture of black and white seeds in water, and placed them on a sheet of cotton wool in a baking tray.

After a week a careful watering, and patient nurturing in the dappled sunlight of my kitchen, I had my finished product.

Absolutely loving nothing had happened. I knew I was winging it, but I sort of expected something. Anything. The tiniest germination would have been a bitter disappointment, but this was even worse: just a depressing waste of time.

Obviously, I noticed this wasn’t working some time before the dinner, so I had prepared by buying some cress. A poor substitute for blowing minds, but it would at least add some greenery.

Dress the cress in a vinaigrette made with mustard, toasted sesame oil, garlic, vinegars. You know the drill.

The vinaigrette on its own tasted incredibly powerful and pretty horrible, but once used to lightly dress the leaves, it worked nicely.

Plate the dish by putting a prawn on top of the hummus and chucking a few cresses on top of each morsel.

Only after putting these out did Het tell me she didn’t like prawns. However, the amazement induced by a gluten-free Yorkshire pudding soon made up for this… Everyone loved these. The sweetness of the prawns, the garlicky smoky hummus and the crispy claggy puddings worked superbly together. Will, being from Yorkshire himself, was the person I was most worried about with these, but he was also effusive in his praise of them.

Hors d ‘Oeuvre:
Butternut squash, pine nut and sesame filled tortellini, in a black sesame ink with pickled carrot ribbons

If you want to impress a woman, make your own pasta. If you want to impress a self-diagnosed gluten-intolerant woman, make edible gluten-free pasta. That’s exactly what I set out to do…

Begin by making pasta.

128g sesame flour
128g tapioca starch
50g xanthan gum
6 large eggs, beaten
1 butternut squash
20g sesame seeds
20g pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
25g parmesan, finely grated
A handful of parsley, finely chopped

What you’re supposed to do in this situation is to mix your dry ingredients, take half of the mixture, make a well and gently pour in your eggs, then mix into a firm dough.

What I did was to take half of the mixture, make a well and pour ALL of the egg in in one go, it poured all over my board and I had to use the remaining flour to quickly dam the flow of egg before my entire kitchen became and eggy floury mess.

Eventually, I got it into something resembling pasta dough. A little drier than I would have liked, but pasta dough nonetheless.

Wrap in clingfilm, put it into the fridge until the filling is ready. The major difficulty at this point was getting the egg/xanthan gum mix off my hands. It felt like I had been slithered over by a million snails, and nothing seemed to clean it off! After a few tea towels and scouring pads had been ruined, I was finally clean…

Peel and chop the squash and roast for 45m at 180°C.

Toast the pinenuts and sesame seeds, and mix with the riced squash, garlic, parsley and parmesan.

Allow to cool.

Once the filling is cooled, make pasta in your pasta machine.
Because the sesame flour pasta is a little bit less elastic than regular pasta, I went with a medium thickness, only dialling the machine to the sixth setting.

Take a really small bit of filling, about the ¾ of a teaspoon full onto a disc of pasta about 8cm in diameter.
Fold the pasta circle in half.

Once you’ve folded the pasta in half, you can either have the pasta as mezzaluna, or as tortellini. Or you can make a whole new type of pasta because you’ve forgotten what tortellini look like… My son thought they looked like sharks fins, so they became “sharkelini”. I’m sure we could make that the latest hipster food craze…

Make as many as you can before you want to kill yourself.

At this point, you can freeze the pasta, or if you’re ready to use it immediately, plonk it in boiling water for 3m.

So, now we had pasta, we needed the broth. Or in this case, something I had rather pretentiously decided to call “ink”.

200g black sesame seeds
Lamb stock
4 eggs

Toast the sesame seeds for 5-10m over a medium heat. It can be quite difficult to tell if they’re toasting or burning, so you have to toss them and smell them regularly. You can also hear them hissing slightly as they toast, as the curved burn on my ear can testify.

Once toasted, add a large knob of butter and throw in the chopped celery, carrot, onion and garlic.

Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for a bit.
Strain through cheesecloth.
Separate your eggs, beat the whites into a foam and throw into the soup.
Bring to the boil, and the egg whites will rise to the top. Then simmer for 15m and allow to circulate to remove as many solids and impurities as possible.

At this point, it looked fairly depressingly horrible, but after I chilled it, and skimmed off the remaining solids and fat it became much more palatable-looking…
Reheat when needed.

About 20m before serving, cut some carrot into thin ribbons, and make a quick pickle with a little toasted sesame oil, a large amount of vinegar and some water.

Plate the dish by placing the boiled pasta into a bowl, pour over the ink, put on a few ribbons and garnish with a bit of finely chopped sage and a few black sesame seeds.

The pasta was a little bit thick, but overall the dish was good. Peregrine described the perfect pasta as silk sheets, where this was more of a duvet. A bit glib, but accurate and true! The crunchy pinenuts and sesame seeds in the filling contrasted nicely with the softness of the squash. The real triumph here was the ink. Delicious. Smokey, savoury, nutty, the perfect thing to go with the sweet squash and the vinegary carrots. The real winner here was the fact that everyone finished every last morsel.

And that Het has now insisted that Perry buys sesame flour and finally uses that pasta machine he bought all those years ago.

Skinless Italian sausage with a bean sesame stew, sesame polenta, parmesan tuile and hot sweet pepper sauce

A few ICSAs ago, I won a meat grinder. I’ve been using it a lot for burgers, kofte, Bolognese and a few other things, but the one thing I really wanted to try was sausages. And this seemed like a good opportunity to give it a go!

The first thing to do is to get a big piece of fatty lamb shoulder from a butcher. Get to know your butcher, he is a good chap to talk to about sausages… I almost asked him to strip the meat from the bone, but I decided to do it myself. Which was quite good fun!

Anyway, I kept the bones to make lamb stock (which I used in the starter, if you remember), and the meat diced up in cubes that fit down a meat grinder spout thing.

This being trendy south London, we I couldn’t find a shop that sold lamb sausages skins, but once again, I used the internet.

30m to 2h before using them, you need to soak the skins in water.

About 1.5kg lamb shoulder meat
A healthy glug of port
6 or so cloves of garlic
3 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
8 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 scotch bonnet

The day before starting, I put all my metal components of the grinder in the freezer. On the day of sausage making, I got everything out of the freezer and began to grind my meat.

After you’ve ground your meat, grind your spices! Well, toast them first, then grind them.

Once you’ve ground the meat and spices, finely chop the and mash the garlic into a paste, then mix everything together.
Chuck in the port, then mix with your hands.
Once all mixed, take a small dollop and fry to taste.

It tasted good!

It was at this point that realised that I had lost my sausage nozzle when I moved house. Not to worry, thought I, I can do the sausages with a funnel!

Yeah, so it turns out that this is much harder than I thought it would be. Like, impossibly harder. So it had to be skinless sausages…

Roll them, and set aside until ready to cook.

As well as the sausages, I made a bean and lentil stew.

Black eyed beans
Mung beans
Kidney beans
Urid beans
Pinto beans
Red lentils
100g sesame seeds
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chilli, minced
Ground cumin
400g tinned tomatoes
Handful of finely chopped parsley

Begin by soaking your bean mixture.

Mix everything together and chuck it in a slow cooker.

After 8h in the slow cooker, the beans were done, and the stew had a very thick consistency, as some of the beans had fallen apart and incorporated into the liquor. It was a little bit claggier than I wanted (I wanted it to me the consistency of mashed potato, ideally) but I thought I would just mix a little stock into it when it came time to serve if necessary…

Next, I had to make polenta.

Polenta does not necessarily have to be made with cornmeal, and I figured, if people can make it with buckwheat flour or whatever the gently caress it is, I can make it with sesame flour! I may have been wrong…

200ml milk
200g sesame flour
50g butter

Put the milk in a large pan with 600ml water and a little salt, bring to the boil.
Add the sesame flour in a thin stream, whisking constantly.
Stir for a minute or two until it thickens.
Whisk every four or five minutes, for forty five minutes until thick and pulling away from the sides.

Stir in the butter, and pour into a greased shallow baking tray.
Press parchment paper over the top and allow to cool in the fridge.
Once solid, I wanted to cut it into shapes and fry it in butter, but it was not to be. It never reached a set point solid enough to come out from the tray, so I elected to grill it instead. This worked, kind of!

To go with the rest of the dish, I made a sweet and spicy pepper sauce with four Romano peppers, a scotch bonnet and a couple of red chillies.

Roast them, blend them, add a little cream to taste (because it was a bit outrageously hot when uncut) and leave to cool until ready

As well as this, I wanted a sesame tuile. Unfortunately, I have no photos of this process, as I had been drinking quite a bit by this point, and forgot.

1 egg white, beaten
30g butter
30g sesame flour
30g parmesan, finely grated
4tsp white sesame seeds

Beat the butter until creamy.
Gradually incorporate the flour and parmesan.
Beat in the egg white and seeds.
Smear the dough onto a baking tray in a thin layer.
Bake at 180°C for 10m.
Once out of the oven, quickly cut into strips before it becomes too brittle.
Once everything is prepared, you can barbecue the sausages!

Don’t make the mistake of using your flash because it’s night time.

Or forgetting to check your photos aren’t blurry before you stop taking them.

But once the sausages are done, take them off, and slice them up.

Smear the sauce on the plate, then ring mould (gently caress YEAH) the stew onto the plate. Top with a circle of polenta, put on your sausage and top with the tuile.

This was a triumph. The sausage was amazing: tasty, nutty, spicy, with a real flavour of sesame that actually complemented the other spice elements. The bean stew was just the right stodginess to go with the sausage, and the tuile crunch contrasted the stew nicely. The hot sauce worked really well too. The only real failure was the attempt at polenta. It was, according to Will, “absolutely unlike polenta in almost every respect, except in blandness”. It didn’t really taste of much to be honest, but it did go quite well as a vehicle for the hot sauce!

And then it was time for my favourite part, the part that everyone had been looking forward to, except my wife, who still remembered the pudding in ICSA noodles.

Sesame orange cake with a sesame snap and toasted sesame orange custard

I’ve made a variant of this a few times before with almond flour only, and it’s always been good, so I thought it would work nicely with sesame…

I only have a mise en place for the cake for this one…

3 oranges
375g sugar
9 eggs
100g sesame flour
175g almond flour
100g sesame seeds
1.5tsp baking powder
6tbsp white sesame seeds
6 tbsp honey

Begin by bringing a large pot of water to the boil, and cook the oranges whole for 2h.
Drain, allow to cool and puree, whole.
Beat the eggs with the sugar until smooth and well combined.
Mix with the orange purée, followed by the sesame flour, almond flour, baking powder and sesame seeds.
Pour the batter into two greased baking trays.

Bake for about 1h at 180°C for about an hour until the top is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the tin.
Make a paste with the honey and sesame seeds and smear over one of the cake sheets.
Put the second sheet on top, cut into rounds and dust with a little icing sugar.

To go with the cake, I made a custard and a sesame snap, but sadly I didn’t think to do a mise en place.

If you’ve never had a sesame snap, you have completely missed out. These were the closest thing to sweets I had when I was a kid…

150g white sesame seeds
6tbsp caster sugar
6tbsp honey

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan for 5-10m until golden.
Remove from the pan and set aside.
Put the sugar in the same pan and make a caramel. Add the honey and continue heating until it’s rich and golden.
Tip in the seeds and stir.
Pour into a large tin as thinly as you can and allow to set, scoring lines into the brittle while it cools so that it can break along the lines.

While it is cooling, make the custard.
5 large egg yolks
6tbsp white sesame seeds
1tbsp toasted sesame oil
150g sugar
250ml double cream
200ml milk
Zest from 1 orange
6 cardamom pods

Combine the egg yolks, sugar and sesame oil in a large bowl, beating enough to blend.
Toast sesame seeds for 5m in a dry deep pan.
Add milk, cream and orange zest and heat until scalding.
Whisk the cream mixture into the eggs.
Strain the mixture back into the pan, squeezing as much liquid out of the solids as you can.
Heat for a further 15m, whisking constantly until smooth and velvety.
Strain into the serving dishes and chill.

Plate by placing a circle of cake into the custard and rest a diamond of snap on each.

Look how amazing the cake was.

This was amazingly good. The cake and the custard were incredibly orangey, the seeds added to the flavour of everything and the honey complemented the orange flavour nicely. Honestly, this was one of the best things I’ve ever cooked, and I think it was also one of the nicest looking. The general consensus was that this was “fantastic”, “delicious” and “amazing”. The only criticism came from my wife, who said she couldn’t eat all of her sesame snap without feeling like would need to keep brushing her teeth forever.

At this point, we realised that we had a bit of sesame milk leftover, and that it might go well with some weird rum we had…

White sesame Cuban

A bonus drink! Because we were pretty pissed by this point, and just thought we’d use up the remaining sesame milk.

Sesame milk
Legendario Elixir de Cuba

1 part sesame milk
1 part legendario
On ice

This was pretty good! By the point we got here, everyone was slightly sloshed, so it was free poured, which meant we inevitably overdid the rum and made them a bit harsh... But good harsh.

So, let's review...


Seedy armpit

Black sesame coated prawn on a hummus-topped pudding, with toasted sesame vinaigrette dressed cress

Hors d ‘Oeuvre:
Butternut squash, pine nut and sesame filled tortellini, in a black sesame ink with pickled carrot ribbons

Skinless Italian sausage with a bean sesame stew, sesame polenta, parmesan tuile and hot sweet pepper sauce

Sesame orange cake with a sesame snap and toasted sesame orange custard

White sesame Cuban

Overall, I would say that the meal was a successful one, despite a few hiccups. Often, I find that these ICSA challenges result in me making a lot of dishes which are made worse by the theme ingredient. In this case, however, the theme ingredient shone through and was integral to each dish. Some stand outs were the ink, and the tuile, which were very heavily flavoured with sesame, and amazingly good. The real high point was the pudding, which was full of sesame, improved by it and absolutely delicious. Of the food I got out, everything worked. I think my main dissatisfaction comes from the failures which I managed to cover up: The sausage skins, the sesame sprouts and the blini all could have been so good, but in the end it was still a good meal, and if I hadn’t told anyone about the failures, I don’t think anyone would’ve cared!

It was dinner with good company, good food and good wine. The competition element was sort of incidental: as excuses go for making an effort to cook loads of pretty good high effort food for my friends, it is a good one… But I will definitely be making a lot of this again, hopefully with a few refinements.

Scientastic fucked around with this message at Oct 24, 2015 around 15:05


Jun 18, 2003

mmm... creamy.

I love this. I really like the menu setup instead of having disparate dishes spread out over several days of cooking (I know I've done this myself and always felt a bit like I was cheating). And I'm definitely stealing your sesame flour yorkies.

Jun 11, 2009

Wow, I didn't even think of using sesame flour! I'm generally very skeptical of alternative flours anyways, but this is all pretty awesome. I'm really impressed by the puddings. And the idea of black sesame ink is very cool.

Sorry about the sesame seed sprouts lol. I understand how that must feel.

The only tip I have is I feel like you rolled your pasta too fast. Even without gluten formation, you should be able to get a much more even (and maybe thin?) pasta if you feed it through from largest to smallest at least twice per setting, double folding as you need.

I'm glad this taught you to love the sesame. It's my favorite flavoring tool.

Dec 17, 2005

If I Saw It, Here's How It Happened.

That's some sexy lamb. Great job!

Oct 9, 2007


I was going to try and take a European route for this ICSA, but I couldn't stop trying to connect Sesame Prawn Toasts with Tahini Gnudi. Your ideas are better. Love the grilled sausage.

Cavenagh fucked around with this message at Oct 26, 2015 around 15:04

Oct 9, 2007




The Midniter
Jul 9, 2001

My expectations have been absolutely blown away.

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