Bitter sweet symphony

15 10 2009

Tamarind-Tree_1761The tamarind tree. Native to Tropical Africa but also found in the Caribbean, India, the  Middle East and the islands of the Pacific. The secret ingredient of both cola and worcester sauce. The taste is bitter and not altogether pleasant but when put in combination with other ingredients it gives food a sparkle like no other.

Such a tall, dark and handsome tree also attracts superstition. It is said that an Indian will never sleep under its branches for fear of evil spirits and certain African tribes consider it sacred. To some Burmese, the tree is said to represent the dwelling place of the rain god.

The dwelling place of the rain god. What a magical thought.

I love tamarind most of all for its very contrariness. It is not easy. It requires refined taste buds and a liking for the exotic. On a hot day, a heaped tablespoon of fresh tamarind with chilled soda water is a refreshing break from the dreariness of all the over-processed, sugary drinks that we are all used to. On that note, here is a great recipe from The Independent for tamarind and ginger sorbet:

Serves 6

2-3in./5-7.5cm piece peeled fresh ginger

8oz /225g jaggery or dark muscovado sugar

4oz /100g tamarind paste

8 green cardamom pods, bruised to reveal the seeds

6fl oz/175ml single cream

4 tablespoons rum

Grate the ginger into a saucepan. Add the sugar, tamarind, cardamom and 1 pint/600ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes then set aside overnight or for at least 3 hours. Strain through a sieve, using a wooden spoon to press through most of the tamarind pulp. Whisk in the cream and rum. Freeze until firm in an ice-cream maker, or in a lidded plastic container when it may be necessary to beat the mixture several times as it freezes to break down ice crystals and produce a smooth sorbet.–tamarind-1572782.html





3 responses

15 10 2009

I’ve lived in the Caribbean for a long time and i never knew all these things about the Tamarind tree. But if you are exposing coca cola and Worcester’s secret ingredients they won’t be too happy! I have heard that thing about duppies and evil spirits but we’ve got one in our garden and it never brought us bad luck. I cooked the recipe last night it really taste good so thnk you for that and i will send some more people your way.

15 10 2009

I know a person who shares many of the qualities of the tamarind tree: native to tropical Africa, gives things a sparkle, that little bit magical, handsome in a female way, contrary, refined and with a hint of the exotic!

15 10 2009

Oh yes, not forgetting the sacred bit!

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