Tahinniyya – Carrot and Leek Salad

This recipe comes from Lilia Zaouali’s Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World.  The original source is Kanz al-Faxa’id fi tanwi al-mawa’id (“The Treasure of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table,”) which was compiled in thirteenth century Egypt or Syria.  This dish would have been served as an appetiser in a Middle Eastern banquet.

Get some carrots, [the] white [part of some] leeks, tahina, wine vinegar and atarif tib. Slice the carrots and boil them. Take the [green] tops of the leeks and boil them separately, then drain them and soften them in sesame oil. Put the tahina in a dish, sprinkle it with boiling water, and mix it by hand so the sesame oil can express itself; then add a little vinegar, honey and some atarif tib. Put the drained carrots and leeks in a serving dish and add the tahina. You must do [this] in such a way that the quantity of carrots and leeks suits that of the condiments.


4 medium   carrots or 3 large carrots 3 tbs tahini (sesame paste)
1 large leek 3 tbs boiling water
3 tbs tahini (sesame paste) 1 tbs wine vinegar
2 tbs virgin sesame oil 2 tbs honey
1 tsp atarif tib


Slice the entire leek into rounds, keeping the white and green separate, and was thoroughly.  Peel carrots and add to cold water.  Bring to the boil, then add the whites of the leek.  After a couple of minutes, remove from the water and drain them – the carrots should have started to soften but still have some resistance.  Slice the carrots into rounds.  Boil the green leek tops for around 5 minutes, then drain, and fry in virgin sesame oil until they’ve gone really soft and lost a lot of their green.

To make the dressing, put the tahini in a bowl with the boiling water (preferably not the vegetable water – see notes) and stir until the tahini is nicely liquid.  Add more water if your tahini is really solid.  Add the wine vinegar, honey and atarif tib, then pour over the combined carrot and leeks.  Can be served either hot or cold.

Equipment required: knife, chopping board, sauce pan, fry pan, stove, bowls.

Total Time: approx. 30 minutes preparation.

Difficulty Rating: X

Prep ahead of time?  Yes.

Serves: 6 as a side

Leftover Potential: reasonable.


  • The recipe doesn’t say to boil the white part of the leeks, but the dish turns out much better if you do.
  • The green tops of the leeks are quite bitter, which is why you have to boil them and then fry them – it leeches out the bitter toxin.
  • Make sure you get virgin sesame oil, not the stuff sold in the Asian section of supermarkets.  Virgin sesame oil is made from unroasted sesame seeds, and is a lot less strong than the Asian stuff; if you use Asian sesame oil in medieval Middle Eastern cooking, the result will be inedible.
  • Atarif tib, or atraf al’tib, is simply a term for mixed spices.  If using a modern Middle Eastern spice blend, be very careful, as many of these contain New World spices such as chilli, allspice and paprika.  Based on the work of Charles Perry, my mix uses spikenard, bay leaf, nutmeg, mace, green cardamom, cloves, rose hips, long pepper, ginger and pepper.

Allergy Notes

  • Gluten Free
  • Lactose Free
  • Egg-allergy friendly
  • Contains sesame


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