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3 Jordanian Dishes That Incorporate Tahini

While in Jordan, I spoke with multiple chefs to learn about how they use tahini. Soon, I was ready to try cooking with it myself.

Sand everywhere.

Sand everywhere.

A land of red rocks and desert dunes, Jordan rises from the arid sands. Pink sandstone cliffs carve out the wonders of Petra. The Dead Sea shimmers in the heat, devoid of life. Twinkling lights stream from the bustling city of Aqaba, their radiance creating a necklace of precious jewels in the night sky. Notes from a flute carry across the mountains, the melody drifting in the inky darkness. The nutty aroma of tahini tickles my nose, drawing me into an unmarked building.

I see it as soon as I walk in. A brimming bowl of tahini rests on the countertop. With fascination, I watch as the chef mixes the sesame paste with lemon juice and spices. Falafel hisses in a deep skillet, spitting oil as the chickpea mixture cooks. Within minutes, I am presented with a full plate of food.

Recipe 1: Falafel With Tahini Sauce

A staple in Jordanian cuisine, falafel can be baked or fried. The batter is loaded with fresh herbs and spices. Tahini dipping sauce is the perfect condiment for this dish.

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Time: 30 minutes prep work. 1 hour cook time.
  • Makes: Enough for 6 people.

Ingredients

For the Falafel:

  • 1 pound dried chickpeas. Do not use canned!
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • handful of chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 roasted garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying

For the Tahini Sauce:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 cup stirred tahini paste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

Step 1: Make the Sauce

  1. Mince the garlic and mash it into a paste with the sea salt.
  2. Whisk garlic paste and all other ingredients until combined.

Step 2: Make the Falafel

  1. Cover chickpeas with water and let them soak overnight.
  2. Drain chickpeas and pour them into a food processor. Add chopped onion, parsley, garlic, flour, cumin, salt, black pepper, coriander, cayenne pepper, and cardamom.
  3. Pulse ingredients until the mixture is rough and coarse. You want the texture between couscous and a paste.
  4. Put the mixture in a covered bowl and refrigerate for an hour.
  5. After an hour, fill a deep skillet with vegetable oil and form the batter into medium sized balls. If they don't stick together throw the mix back into the processor. Still not sticking? Add a bit more flour.
  6. Fry away.

Note: You can also bake falafel. Just heat the oven to 375°F and lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil. Turn the falafel over after 15 minutes so each side gets equally brown.

Recipe 2: Kefta With Potatoes

A popular main dish in Jordan, kefta with potatoes is the perfect harmony between creamy, tangy and acidic. Kefta is spiced ground beef/lamb.

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Time: 45 minutes prep work. 1 1/2 hour cook time.
  • Makes: Enough for three people.

Ingredients

For the Kefta:

  • 1/2 pound ground beef/lamb
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • pinch of salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium sized onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

For the Tahini Sauce:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • pinch of salt and black pepper
  • minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cup well-stirred tahini

For the Base:

  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Mix all kefta ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Mix all tahini ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Saute the potatoes with paprika and olive oil. Remove from heat when slightly soft.
  5. Use a deep casserole dish and pour a layer of tahini sauce in it. Spread it evenly in the bottom of the casserole.
  6. Take the kefta and flatten it into a block. Place the block on top of the tahini sauce.
  7. Add the potatoes on top of the meat.
  8. Pour the rest of the tahini sauce over the potatoes.
  9. Cook for about an hour and a half in the oven.

Recipe 3: Fatteh

Fatteh is a dish of fried pita bread with chickpeas and tahini-yogurt sauce. The fried pita bread adds crunch to a creamy dish. Definitely a favorite of mine, this recipe is great for a night in.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time: 45 minutes prep work. 1 hour cook time.
  • Makes: Enough for eight people.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 3 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 5 small pita loaves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • Pinch of cumin
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts

Instructions

  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight. Then put them in a big pot with water.
  2. Simmer chickpeas until tender. Add cumin and some olive oil. Make sure you keep the lid on the pot—you want the broth hot for later.
  3. Use a glass mixing bowl and add the yogurt, lemon juice, tahini, and crushed garlic. Mix well.
  4. Boil two inches of water and place the glass bowl on top. Constantly stir the mixture and make sure it does not boil.
  5. Cut the pita into bite-sized pieces and fry them in vegetable oil. Use a paper towel to get the access oil off.
  6. Spread the pita evenly in a serving bowl. Pour 1 cup of the chickpea broth over the bread. Take the chickpeas and add them on top. Then pour the yogurt mixture over the chickpeas.
  7. Gently stir the layers and add some more chickpeas.
  8. Add fried pine nuts, paprika, cayenne pepper and a dash of olive oil as a garnish.
  9. Serve warm.

Jordan Is a Beautiful Place to Visit

Although food is a big part of visiting Jordan, there are other cities, monuments, and historical sites worth seeing.