Food article: Recipes for tamarind Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Food glossary

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane

The tamarind tree is a native of northern Africa and possibly India, although some research suggests that it only appeared in the sub-continent in Palaeolithic times. It is now found in all tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.
It is a large tree and its pods are the source of that strangely alluring and compulsive sweet/sour flavour that dominates the cuisines of southern India and northern Malaysia. In fact the delightful Assam cuisine of the Penang area derives much of its flavour from the tamarind pod.
The best way to buy tamarind (if you can't get the fresh variety) is in the blocks of dried pulp. Simply pour hot water over and leave for twenty minutes. Push the liquid and pulp through a fine sieve and add to soups, curry, stews or any other dish that you want to give a sour flavour.
Chill the liquid and a dash of lime juice and you have a wonderfully refreshing drink.
The high sugar content of the pulp means that it adds sweetness but this is counter-balanced by the sourness.
Because of the high acid content it is a natural preservative and chutneys based on this ingredient last for ages.
A little known fact is that tamarind is an ingredient of Worcestershire sauce.
Tamarind chutney
This is a wonderful accompaniment to, say, a southern Indian vegetable curry, but is also wonderful as a dip for samosas or pakoras.
50 grams tamarind pulp
300 ml boiling water
3 teaspoons lime juice
3 teaspoons freshly ground ginger
1 teaspoon minced red chillies
1 teaspoon palm sugar
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, roasted and ground
Soak the tamarind pulp and the palm sugar in the hot water for 10 minutes then push it through a fine sieve until all the pulp has been extracted. Add all the other ingredients.
Tamarind summer drink
100 grams tamarind pulp
500 ml boiling water
20 ml lime juice
2 teaspoons grated palm sugar
Soak the tamarind pulp in the hot water for 10 minutes then push it through a fine sieve until all the pulp has been extracted. Add all the other ingredients.
Chill, then serve in a tall glass with a twist of lime.
Tamarind glazed quail
Farmed quail do not have as much flavour as their free-range cousins so we like to add something punchy to them.
The idea for this recipe germinated during a trip to the United States where we had various versions of miso-glazed sea bass. One was at Aqua in California and another was at Nobu in New York.
We thought about it in relation to quail (which you often see prepared with something sweet such as honey).
Rather than using miso, our thoughts then turned to lovely sour tamarind which we use a lot in our cooking.
We developed this glaze based on tamarind and palm sugar - two flavours that are often found together in South East Asian cooking. But we also found that the lime juice provides another acid layer that rounds out the flavour profile.
Quail 6 (at room temperature)
Tamarind pulp 90 grams (3 ounces)
Boiling water 1 cup
Ginger (fresh) 1 teaspoon grated
Rice wine 2 tablespoons
Palm sugar 30 grams (1 ounce) finely grated
Lime juice 1 tablespoon
Chilli 1 teaspoon finely chopped
Peanut oil 1 tablespoon
Measure out the required quantity of tamarind pulp and place in a ceramic bowl. Pour one cup of boiling water over and leave to soak. When the water is cool enough, use your hands to mash the pulp as finely as possible. Push the liquid and as much of the pulp as possible through a fine sieve into a heavy saucepan.
Add all the other ingredients except the quail. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the liquid is reduced and has the consistency of heavy syrup. Sieve the syrup into a bowl, then allow it to cool to a sticky glaze.
Baste the quail on both sides with the glaze.
Heat a frying pan or, preferably, a stove top grill plate, and place the quail on. Cook for about three minutes on each side until just cooked through. Baste with more of the mixture if required.
Allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.
Note: The glaze can be made beforehand and will keep for a week or more in the refrigerator. It can also be used for fish or chicken.
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