Great seasoning is all about satisfying our taste senses.
One of our 5 main tastes is sour, and usually we offset this ‘pure’ taste with sweet to create great tasting dishes.
As well as classic British dishes like apple pie (made with tart Granny Smiths), Chinese sweet and sour sauce and Indian chutneys are famed for their sophisticated blend of sweet and sour.
Fruits like lemon and lime are classic examples of a pure sour flavour, but tamarind blends sour with a hint of sweet. It’s a brilliant natural seasoning ingredient.
The tamarind tree (native to Africa and India) produces dark bean-shaped pods that yield a sticky, sour/sweet fruit. It looks a little like a date but is much more sour.
You can buy tamarind in a few different forms – as a ready-made paste in a jar (sold in most supermarkets); as a compressed block (from good wholefood shops), or whole pods (from Asian supermarkets).
If you’re using a compressed block, tear off a segment, pour a little hot water over it and leave to soak for about 20 minutes, mixing the pulp to ensure that the water has absorbed the citrussy flavours.
You can then either just use the liquid, in the same way you would lemon juice, or use the pulp, removing any hard threads or seeds. A little goes a long way.
As well as curries, Tom Yum soup and chutney, tamarind works really well with ginger – try these flavourful biscuits that mix tamarind, ginger and garam masala!
Ginger and Tamarind biscuits
1 large egg
35g tamarind concentrate (or tamarind block soaked in a little water and mashed)
2 tsp garam masala
3 tsp ground ginger
200g chopped glace ginger
250g plain flour
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Mix together the butter, sugar, tamarind and egg till creamy.
Add all the rest of the ingredients.
Make into balls, place a few cm apart on a greased baking tray, then cook at 170oC for 15 mins.
And if you’ve any favourite tamarind recipes please let me know!