AHH the tamarind sauce, the great fixer of flavors and enhancer to all that it touch. a key payer in the chaats, bringing that sour sweet combination that sets everything of against each other. in a way a little like ketchup in that it goes with everything and did you know that ketchup originally came from china and that kolkata has the largest chinatown outside towns in china. no- but that is not what is important now- what is important is to de mystify the making of the tamarind sauce- for really it is very simple, very cheap and last longtime too.
The tamarind tree spreads a beautiful canopy from which pods hang like festive decorations. It is in these pods shaped similar to the green beans of summer, that the sour citrus flavoured pulp rests, clinging to its seeds that are smooth to the touch and the shape of conception.
Away from its native land there are different ways to buy the tamarind pulp. There is the concentrate, looking like marmite, easiest to use but a funny taste in the back ground. Then there are the wet tamarind or the dry blocks of the pulp. These have the seeds and fibres in which it takes a little longer to deal with but the flavour is more natural and it is much cheaper.
I use the dry because i like but there is little difference and you can cook them both the same way.
It keeps well in fridge or freezer so why not make two blocks worth as a bottle lingering around the place will never be to waste.
The idea is to meet the sourness of the pulp with some sweetness and subtle spices. Again so many variations to this simple sauce or chutni and the recite below is how i have been lately making for the lovelove express. It is just a suggestion and nothing is set in stone.
To sweeten the sourness i use jaggary- the palm sugar. Now this is nothing to do with the the palms that are replacing the beautiful and vital rain forests of indonisia and malaysia and home to our orang brothers. Those palms are used to make palm oil which main function is to pad out crap food and make a lot for a few. No the jaggary is from the cane sugar that has been reduced to a fudge coloured block. The taste is also fudge like with a sweetness that comes strong and leaves quick with out that cloying chemical sweetness of the white sugar.
For the spices i use the warming spices- cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, star anise and mace.
With the spice often less is more. Over stimulating a dish with to many and too much can confuse and under balance. There is magic in the oils and aromas so give them room to breath and to weave their spell.
- 2- 200 gm blocks tamrind
- 500gm jaggary
- 11 cloves
- 11 cardamom
- 11 black pepper corns
- 1 mace skin
- 3 star anise
So the blocks come in 200gm packs and take two of the dried blocks. Now to open these take care for they are wrapped in cellophane that can stick to the tamarind and take a while to release- so to avoid cut with a knife the celotape that holds it together at both ends and in the middle.
Put these in a pot along with the palm sugar and the spices. add a litre of water and bring to a boil and then bring down to a simmer. Occasionally give it a helping hand with a wooden spoon to get everything getting on and after half an hour all will have broken down and the flavours become one.
Leave to cool and then squeeze though a sieve into a bowl below with your hand. Have patience and find your rhythm and soon it will be done. The more you squeeze the more you get and add a little more water to help the process along. The consistency i use is that of maybe single cream. Always good to remember you can thin something down much more easily to fatten it up.
It freezes well and in a fridge you will finish it before it starts to ferment.