Tamarind Made Easy
The tamarind is native to East Africa, but its versatility as a food ingredient have helped it spread throughout the world's tropical regions. The fruit grows in the shape of long, leathery pods that resemble beans. As they ripen and mature, the outer skin becomes a hard, brittle shell and the pulp inside dries to a brown, sticky pulp. The tangy fruit is used like lemon or lime juice to add a refreshingly acidic accent to foods and sauces. Tamarind takes it's English name from the Arabic, tamar-hindi, meaning ‘Indian date’, although it is also known as ‘imli’. When fresh, the tamarind pods can be eaten as a snack, but it is most often seen as a cooking ingredient, in the form of a tamarind block.
Many cooks believe that to get the best out of tamarind, you really have to use the block. To use it in a recipe, cut off a piece from your block of pulp and place it in a measuring cup or mixing bowl. Cover the pulp with boiling water and let it sit for at least five minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain the liquid, picking the seeds from your strainer and pushing as much pulp through it as you can manage. The end result should be a thin, brown sticky paste. Need more guidance?
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Tamarind concentrate is a convenience product, very similar in its way to the garlic or herb pastes sold in the produce section of your supermarket. This type of paste is smooth and contains no seeds or fibers, and requires no soaking. It can be used straight from the jar. At Rafi's, we only recommend ingredients that we use in our own cooking and our concentrate of choice is Top-op's Tamarind Concentrate. This is a thick, dark unsweetened paste, which works well in salad dressings because it dissolves easily when whisked with a bit of vinegar or lemon juice. It’s so highly concentrated that you can just spoon out a tiny bit to add zing to your sauce.
Tamarind chutney is a perennial favourite, and is guaranteed to make your mouth happy, it is particularly good on a Ploughman's Lunch! If you fancy making your own, here is a super easy recipe - just don't eat it all at once!
If you want an even easier option, then we recommend using Geeta's Tamarind Chutney, which combines tangy tamarind with warming spices such as cumin, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon and cloves. This chutney will add zing to any curry and can be used as a dip by either thinning it with water or stirring it through yoghurt. We especially love it with bhajias.
Have you ever tried using chutney as a marinade? Mr Vikki's is one of the best chutney makers in the world; their products are imaginitive and delicious; so you know that when we say that their Tamarind and Chipotle Chutney is one of the tastiest of their products... With the smokiness of the chipotle chilli drifting over sweet, tangy tamarind, it works with pork, fish, cheese, or chicken. It's really easy; simply cover the ingredient of your choice with the chutney and leave in the fridge for a minimum of an hour before cooking. Try it with this Tamarind Roasted Salmon for a dinner you won't forget!
So there you have it! Simple, healthy and delicious. What more could you ask for?