I was about to embark on a recipe for tamarind fish for a Madhur Jaffrey I Heart Cooking Club Challenge when I noticed it included her home made tamarind paste. The recipe was at the back of the book ( Madhur Jaffrey's Flavours of India) and it looked so simple I decided to make it straightaway rather then use the bottled variety which has all sorts of unwelcome chemical additives.
Tamarinds are the fruits of a tall shade tree. Their sour green flesh changes to a chocolaty brown colour as it ripens and develops a sour sweet flavour. The fruits are harvested, peeled, seeded , semi dried and then pressed into blocks .Before you use this it needs to be broken up and soaked in water and then pushed through a sieve to produce tamarind paste .
I made a smaller quantity than Madhur , but it can easily be doubled or trebled and what you don't use straightaway can be stored in the fridge for several weeks or frozen for longer.
To start with I chopped 60 gm from a block of compressed tamarind pulp which is readily available in any of our local Asian shops . I was supposed to tear it into small pieces but it was too tough so I simply left it in one piece, put it into a ceramic bowl and just covered it with very hot water. After a few minutes it had begun to soften enough so that I could break it into smaller clumps with a fork.
You can leave this to soak for 3 hours or overnight or microwave it for 3-5 minutes . Always in a hurry I chose the latter option. I should have transferred it to a slightly larger bowl as a little of it spluttered over, but not enough to ruin the recipe.
The next instruction was to put a sieve into a non metallic bowl and to empty the tamarind and its soaking liquid into it. Before doing this it would have been a good idea to leave it to cool a little as it was too hot to push through with my fingers, but I could extract most of the pulp with the back of a wooden spoon. When it had cooled a little more I used my fingers to push through more. I also scraped quite a lot of the paste from the underside of the sieve where it was clinging.
By this time only one fat seed and a very little fibrousy pulp remained in the sieve and the tamarind in the bowl had been transformed into a thick, but still runny chutney like paste, which I felt was just right.
So I didn't need to follow her next step, which was to put whatever tamarind remained in the sieve back into the soaking bowl, add more hot water, mash again and return to the sieve to extract more pulp.