x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Tamarind

Recipes Tamarind lends a tart sweetness to dishes.

With its juicy, sweet-sour richness, the pulp from tamarind pods is a popular flavouring in cuisines of almost any region where tamarind trees grow, ranging from the Mediterranean to right across the Pacific. Its popularity is hardly surprising: while tamarind pulp's sharp acidic taste is as mouth-watering as that of a citrus fruit, it also boasts a rich, aromatic meatiness that thickens dishes and makes them taste heartier. The pulp can be used straight from the pod but is most commonly sold in dark squidgy plastic-wrapped brick, the source I generally use myself. The dish below is extremely popular in Thailand, with the tart sweetness of the tamarind and bite of the chillies cutting through the oiliness of the fish brilliantly.

1 whole fish, such as sea bream or snapper, gutted and rinsed 4 tablespoons cornflour 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp, plus boiling water to cover 2 tablespoons palm sugar 3 cloves garlic 2 shallots 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (such as Thai Nam Pla) 2 green chillies 2 heaped tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped 1 chunk ginger, the size of your little finger tip 250 ml vegetable oil Put the tamarind pulp in a teacup, then fill this to the brim with boiling water. Prod the pulp with a spoon to encourage it to dissolve, then leave it to stand for five minutes. Pass the cup's contents through a sieve, squeezing as much of the pulp through as you can, then ­discard any left over tamarind pith. Peel and chop the garlic and shallots to a fine hash. Cut the chillies in half, remove any white pith and seeds then chop finely. Peel the chunk of ginger and mince with a sharp knife. Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a pan and fry everything you have chopped for a couple of minutes, until the shallots start to turn translucent. Pour in the tamarind liquid, fish sauce and sugar and bring the pan to the boil. Leave to bubble over a medium heat for a few minutes stirring to create a thick, syrupy sauce.

When the sauce is ready, fry the fish. Cut three deep slits at regular intervals on the side of the fish. Toss the fish in cornflour, then shake of any excess. Heat the remaining oil over a medium to high heat in a wok or deep frying pan. It will be ready for frying when the oil starts to move slightly. Fry the fish for five minutes per side, resisting the temptation to prod and move it with tongs (this can cause the flesh and skin to flake) until both sides are golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain thoroughly on kitchen paper. Place the fish on a serving dish, stir the chopped coriander leaves into the tamarind sauce and pour it over. This dish will do for two when served with rice.

This unusual, deliciously tangy Latin American cordial gets drunk so fast when I make it that I generally prepare a double batch. While it still tastes good without the orange or lime juice, the extra edge of acidity this gives the drink makes it more refreshing. 100 grams tamarind pulp 150 grams unrefined sugar 1.5 litres water 8 oranges or 4 limes Ice cubes for serving

Bring a litre of the water to boil in a saucepan, then add the sugar and tamarind pulp. Simmer for five minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and squishing any lumps of pulp against the side of the pan to ensure they dissolve fully. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and leave to cool until the liquid reaches room temperature (this will take a couple of hours). Still in the pan, transfer the liquid to the fridge and leave to chill and infuse overnight. Add the remaining half litre of water to the pan, then strain everything through a fine sieve, pressing down any tamarind fibres to extract their juice. Squeeze out your choice of citrus fruit and stir in the juice. Serve very cold with ice cubes.