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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Charm of a Tangy Fresh-Tamarind Chutney

Fresh-Tamarind, Imli Chutney-The Journey of a Tamarind freshly picked from the tree to your plate n how it can make our fries come to life!

A tamarind tree, standing tall, un-ripened tamarinds are hanging from the tree. Have you ever seen that? Some of you might have, some of you might not have recognized it while you passed by a tamarind tree. Fresh tamarind is elongated, a bit flat cylindrical in shape like our fingers; outside the layer is light brown, inside it looks fresh light green with the seeds arranged carefully which are white inside. Years ago while I was walking past a tree I casually looked at it and saw some brown long slender fruits hanging among the light green airy leaves, it took me some moments to realize that I was looking at a full grown tamarind tree bearing fruits! Before this I have never looked at a tamarind tree-consciously, so looking at that site brought a new feeling and that frame from that time got printed in my memory. Years later today when I am writing about this in the blog I realize it stayed with me n I can access it. It is a good feeling.

                               Unlike mature tamarind which is dark brown in color, young tamarind is light green inside and both has almost the same amount of tang, perhaps the fresh one is a bit more tangy but the flavor is where you can taste the difference. I don’t know how will I describe the flavor that comes into being when I made this fresh tamarind chutney, I almost don’t have a reference taste to relate it to, at max it slightly reminds me of lemon lozenges but those lemon lozenges didn't taste like lemon either, so it doesn't take us anywhere I guess. Its fresh, something aromatic about it, acidic in nature, the pulp is pale light green in color and when I simmer it with sugar syrup for some amount of time it turned amber golden, what a beautiful color it is to look at.

The above pic is taken from Wikipedia.
The scientific name of tamarind is Tamarindus Indica, Tamarind is hugely popular across the cultures around the globe, and the tree is probably indigenous to tropical Africa, however it has been cultivated in the Indian sub-continent for such a long time that it is also considered indigenous. We can find the love affair of tamarind in the cuisines of the south-east Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Tropical Africa, Northern Australia, The middle-east Asia, China, Taiwan, South-America particularly Mexico. It is used extensively in both sweet n savory dishes.

This sweet n sour chutney is very simple to make, first I boil the young tamarind fruits to soften n extract the green pulp, then I simmer them in sugar syrup with fennel seeds and dried mango cakes known as “Aam-Satto”or “Aam-papad”. So in the flavorful tang of the tamarind and the sweetness from the sugar we have the background flavors of fennel seeds n dried mango cakes and a touch of dried roasted red chili, for the flavor n not for the heat.

You know what! This is such a versatile chutney, I serve it with samosas, fried dumplings, chicken puffs/vegetable puffs, sometimes I add it when I am making a snacks with puffed rice with vegetable like onion n tomato n spices, sometimes I eat it with a little white rice, they are great with fried papads n flat breads like paranthas n roti. Eat it the way you like it, use it in Bhelpuris or Bombay Mix, and use it in Papdi-chaat or salads. Most importantly have fun eating it.

So once you have found yourself young tree-picked tamarinds in your local market or supermarket, give them a try and you will be delighted. Since they are quite sour we have to balance them with sugar or salt or both and any flavors or spices that go with it.

Now it’s time for the recipe.

For The Recipe: You will need
Young Tamarind fruits-200 gms
Granulated sugar-1/2 to 1 cup
Salt –pinch
Turmeric – pinch
Dried Mango cake/Aam-Satto- chopped in 1 cm cubes about 2 tsp
Fennel seeds-I tbsp, keep ½ tbsp seeds apart
Water- 2 cups

1. Let’s begin by boiling the tamarind fruits. So in wok or deep pan add 1 cup of water and then add the tamarind fruits to the water by breaking them into 2 to 3 pieces by your hand. Add the pinch of salt and the turmeric and let the flame be medium as the water comes to simmer, then make the flame low, cover with a lid and give it 5-10 minutes. After that time you will see the firm tamarind fruits have softened in their shells and if you press them with a spoon you can easily smash them now. So take it off the heat and take the fruits off the water with a spoon and let it cool before we can handle them, keep the remaining water.

2. Now take a pan and on low heat add half of the whole fennel seeds and toss them for a minute, then in a mortar n pestle crush them slightly to a coarse powder.

3. Once the tamarind is cold with a spoon or your finger scoop out the green flesh from the brown outer layer, we don’t need the layer to eat so we have to scoop all the flesh from inside like this. Keep the seeds in the pulp. Once you have scooped out all the light green pulp from the outer layer it is time to prepare the sugar syrup. Discard the outer layers.

4. In a wok or deep pan add the sugar and 1 cup of water and the remaining water from boiling the tamarinds, on low heat let the sugar melt completely, once melted increase the heat until the sugar syrup comes to a boil, then reduce the flame, add the tamarind pulp, crushed fennel seeds, dried mango cakes. Cover and give it around 7-10 minutes, after covering take a small dried red chili and keep it near the flame where it will get slightly roasted being in proximity of the flame. After 7-10 minutes the syrup will look more concentrated, taste at this time to see if the sourness is balanced with the sugar, if not add a little more, it depends on the personal choice. So by this time the syrup will have attained golden amber like color and thickened. Take it off the heat and add the rest half of whole fennel seeds into that and take the roasted chili, which will be little more darker in color now, break it into 3 pieces, shake off the seeds and add to the syrup, let them infuse for 5 minutes off the heat. After that pour it in a bowl and let it come to room temperature if you can wait that long. We are done.

Now it is time to lick the chutney. Bon Appetit.

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