SHARMIN PASHA is a food writer currently based in Dubai, UAE, where she teaches privately-organised cooking lessons on different techniques of cooking. She also hosts an informative page featuring Assamese recipes on Facebook, which was created to showcase the culinary treasures of Assam to the world and to preserve ethnic recipes for generations to come.

Black sesame zebra cake

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Ingredients:

· Flour................................ 2 cups

· Baking powder.................. 1 tsp

· Baking soda...................... ½ tsp

· Salt..................................... ¼ tsp

· Bananas (medium), ripe, mashed............¾ cup

· Eggs.......................................... 2

· White sugar...................... ½ cup

· Light brown sugar........... ½ cup

· Vanilla extract ................... 1 tsp

· Refined oil........................ ½ cup

· Black sesame paste*..... 4 tbsps

· Black sesame seeds........ 1 tbsp

Method: Preheat oven to 1700 C. Butter and line a nine-inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt.

Mash the bananas in a separate bowl until smooth. Add the eggs, the white sugar, the brown sugar, and the vanilla extract and whisk to combine. Finally, whisk in the oil. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until combined.

Transfer half of the batter to another bowl; now mix in the black sesame paste until evenly incorporated. Spoon about three tablespoons of the white banana batter into the centre of the cake pan. Next, spoon three tablespoons of the black sesame batter into the centre of the white banana batter.  Keep alternating batters until you have used up all the batter. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds all over the top of the batter. Bake for 50 to 70 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool. Serve with tea or coffee.

Black sesame and chickpea dip

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Ingredients:

· Chickpeas......................... 1 can

· Lemon juice 2 tbsps or more to taste

· Garlic, minced................... 1 tsp

· Black sesame paste*....... ¼ cup

· Chilli powder.................... ¼ tsp

· Cumin powder.................. ¼ tsp

· Ice cold water................... ¼ cup

· Olive oil....................... 2-3 tbsps

· Salt.................................. to taste

Method: Drain the chickpeas and rinse. Reserve a few whole chickpeas for serving.

Place the minced garlic, the lemon juice, and salt in a bowl and mash until coarsely puréed. Set aside for ten minutes for the flavours to develop.

Transfer the garlic mixture to a food processor.  Add  the black sesame paste and mix to combine. Add ¼ cup of ice water, one tablespoon at a time, and grind until smooth. Add the boiled chickpeas, the chilli powder, the cumin powder and grind to a creamy paste. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter with the reserved chickpeas.

Serve immediately with pita bread and crudités.

Black sesame paste

· Black sesame seeds......... 1 cup

· Refined or olive oil....... 2 tbsps

Toast the black sesame seeds in a large dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and just starting to crackle. Be careful not to burn them. Allow these to cool completely.

Now transfer the sesame seeds to a food processor.  Grind it, scraping down sides as needed, to a coarse powder. Add in the oil and grind to a smooth paste. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar. This can be stored in the refrigerator for a month.