The combination of earthy, nutty tahini and deeply toasted salty caramel is a taste marriage made in heaven. The addition of the savory tahini to the dark sugar produces an intense creaminess and depth of flavor, while simultaneously cutting through some of the occasional excessive sweetness of a more traditional version that we all know and love. This sauce will happily sit in your fridge for a few weeks ready to drizzle on ice cream, swirl through brownies or blondies before baking, to use as a tart layer or filling, whip into buttercream for a birthday bonanza, or simply spoon over apple wedges for a sweet snack. I consider this caramel sauce to be a fridge staple. A FEW NOTES ON CARAMEL AND TAHINI: If you can, make caramel in a copper pan. They conduct the heat so beautifully that the sugar melts evenly, eliminating the temptation to stir which can result in grainy, crystals – and caramel disaster. If you do not have copper to hand, always make caramel in a stainless steel-lined pan that is completely clean of any darker spots so you can see the sugar change from clear to mahogany. Also, any staining or cooking seasoning from previous escapades left on the stainless surface will cause the sugar to catch and inhibit even melting. Make this sauce in a medium-sized saucepan to allow room for bubbling when the ingredients are added to the hot sugar. I like to cover my sugar with water to make the caramel, simply because it allows a little more control in the process. But it’s merely a preference and works just as well without the water. Mise en place here is important. Make sure all your ingredients are measured out and ready before you begin. Once the sugar is melted and on that fine line of almost burnt, you will add the butter and cream immediately and quickly. So, they need to be on hand and in reach. Make sure your butter, cream and tahini are all at room temperature before you add them to your dark, melted sugar. This reduces the risk of the caramel seizing when you add them into the mix. But please don’t worry if this happens or if lumps form at this stage, just gently warm the sauce over a low flame and gently stir until everything melts together. Your choice of tahini is important here. The best is luxurious, mild and creamy with the texture of loose nut butter. Please steer well clear of the bitter or mildly acidic and dry, chalky brands. If you cannot lay your hands on good tahini, make this sauce without. I promise it will still be deliciously worth it. The date syrup here is optional (kind of). It adds an even deeper colour to the sauce and compliments the savoury sesame notes from the tahini beautifully with a mellow tang and without adding too much sweetness to an already sweet situation. 200g caster sugar 100ml water 85g salted butter, cubed 120ml double cream 80g good creamy tahini (see notes above) 1 tsp salt 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tbsp date syrup Cover the bottom of your medium-sized very clean saucepan with the sugar, breaking up any small lumps. Cover with water and swirl to completely submerge the sugar. Place on medium heat and patiently allow the sugar to melt. Do not stir. This will create crystals resulting in grainy, not smooth caramel. After more caramel disasters than I like to admit, I prefer to keep the heat a little lower and take my time here, gently swirling the pan with a handle to make sure all the sugar melts. But try not to touch it at all. This is an exercise in restraint. Once the sugar has melted and starts to bubble, keep a beady eye on your pan. It will take a good 10-12 minutes to darken, but don’t turn your back as once it starts to darken in color it can go quickly, depending on your pan and the heat. When the caramel is dark, beginning to smoke slightly and scarily on the edge of burning, remove it from the heat and immediately and quickly add the butter, followed by the cream, stirring constantly with a heat-proof rubber spatula. Be careful as it will bubble viciously and spatter. Follow on with the tahini, vanilla, salt and date syrup (if using) and continue to stir until it’s all incorporated. Do not worry if the mixture seizes a little, just place the pan on a gentle heat and stir slowly until it all comes together. Bring the mixture back to a very gentle simmer until it is all blended together smoothly. Pour the sauce into a clean glass jar or bowl and set aside to cool. Cover and keep in the fridge. To use the sauce at a later date, simply warm it by sitting the jar in a pan of hot water for a few minutes until it reaches pouring consistency (or you can warm it in a microwave, but I don’t have one).