Tasting Jerusalem: Tantalizing Tamarind

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The Yin and Yang of Tasting Jerusalem’s October Ingredient

Tamarind is sweet and sour. Or is it sour and sweet?


Hard to tell. The sticky, brown paste has a concentrated acidity and fruity sweetness with molasses and plum undertones and lemony zing. No surprise then that this complex yin yang flavor profile finds its way into five Jerusalem: A Cookbook recipes. Or that this tantalizing ingredient has a home in the varied cuisines of countries around the globe.

Tamarind begins as a 3- to 6-inch thin pod from the graceful Indian-grown tamarind (tam-uh-rihnd) tree native to Asia and northern Africa.


In early spring, the fuzzy seedpods are mature and ready to harvest. By then, slightly gritty pulp with hard brown seeds is dried to intensify its sourness.

It’s used in East Indian, Southeast Asian, Mexican, and Middle Eastern cookery; tamarind’s spark brightens curries, sauces, marinades, and chutney.

Often eggplant, tofu, shrimp, chicken or halibut back up tamarind. It’s paired with garlic, ginger, and chilies in savory dishes, and pineapple and mango in sweet ones.

Tamarind, a.k.a. Indian date or in Arabic tamarhindi, also wows in ice-tea-style drinks, is integral to the original Worcestershire sauce recipe, and satisfies a sweet tooth as sugared candies.

A little known aspect of tamarind’s portfolio is its medicinal use. It’s said to lower fevers, improve digestion, have antiseptic and laxative properties, and reduce pregnancy’s nausea, according to “The Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses” by Deni Bown.


TamarindTamarind is available at ethnic or specialty spice stores as jarred concentrated pulp (with seeds), canned paste, syrup, or ground powder, in addition to the bricks. To use tamarind bricks, break off a chunk of pulp, soak it in hot water for about 20 minutes and squeeze through a fine sieve. Discard the pulp and use the juice in recipes.

October recipes include:

Braised quail with apricots, currants & tamarind, pg 176 – a typical Sephardic style dish combining the sweetness of fruit with savory proteins, the quail could be exchanged for chicken thighs and work quite nicely

Spicy beetroot, leek & walnut salad, pg 73 – This salad is inspired by Georgian cuisine, be sure to read the background on page 71. It also uses tamarind water, as opposed to paste, which you can create starting with the brick, as described above.

Stuffed potatoes, pg 169 – do not try this alone, according to the recipe’s head note, but it sounds like the end might justify the means

Stuffed aubergine with lamb & pine nuts, pg 166-167 – If you are a lamb lover, these are a must make. They are best served at room temperature so they are a great make-ahead dish.

Turnip & veal “cake”, pg 156 – This recipe includes both tamarind and our August ingredient baharat. Lamb or beef can be substituted for the veal. This was originally a stuffed turnip dish that they found too cumbersome so they changed the method to simplify the process.

Here are our “rules” for the group (there really aren’t any except to cook and share your experiences.)

Group Guidelines:

  1. How often will we cook: We’ll pick a new set of recipes monthly to allow us all to fit in the cooking when we can and to find any ingredients that might not be available at your typical grocery store stop.
  2. Do I need to cook all the recipes?: We offer up several recipes to fit your taste buds, menus, schedules – cook as many or as few as you desire. But once you start cooking from this book, you probably won’t stop!
  3. What do I need to participateJerusalem: A Cookbook Plus an interest in cooking, willingness to try new flavors, and an electronic device that communicates via the Internet. We will always post the month’s information in a blog post via omgyummy.com so you can subscribe to Beth’s blog to be guaranteed to receive it or just check in frequently via the Facebook page or Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm
  4. How to share what you cook: Tasting Jerusalem is open to anyone. You do not have to be a blogger or food professional of any sort. But if you have a camera, we encourage you to share photos of your dishes on Twitter or the Facebook page or Instagram, using the hashtag #TastingJrslm – we all love to see the results of your kitchen adventures. New to these types of social media? Just drop me an email beth (at) omgyummy (dot) com – I’ll be glad to help you get started.
  5. What recipes can be published and how to publish: We expect to cook through most, if not all, of the recipes in the cookbook over time. As such, for those of us blogging or writing about our experiences in any way, it’s important that we don’t include the recipe in our blog posts, unless Ten Speed Press has approved its use. The goal of the group is to learn together and enrich our experience using this cookbook, not create an online version of it. We are in touch with Ten Speed Press to find out which recipes we can post. For an example of another group that writes about their cooking but doesn’t post each recipe, please visit French Fridays with Dorie. If you legitimately change a recipe, rewrite the headnote and instructions, and choose to share it, please say you’ve adapted it, giving credit to the source including a link to purchase the cookbook.
  6. What if I have questions? Sarene and I will be monitoring the Facebook page and Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm almost continuously so just leave us a note there. If you see a question and know the answer, jump on in before us. Part of the fun of the group will be each of us sharing our own knowledge, perspectives and ideas.
  7. What to include if you write a blog post: If you do post about what you cook, please let us know – we will link to it. And feel free to post it on the Facebook page and Twitter with the #TastingJrslm hashtag. We’d also appreciate it if you would include this verbiage in the context of your post:

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to omgyummy.com, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest.”

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6 Responses to Tasting Jerusalem: Tantalizing Tamarind

  1. Jael October 6, 2013 at 4:59 am #

    I have not really tried tamarind ;I once bought a package from an Indian store and then forgot about it and finally threw it away.Must give it a new chance!

    • Beth Lee October 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      Yes – let’s all give it a go and see what happens – looking forward to reading the post I saw you put on the TJ page earlier today! Hope all is well Jael!

  2. Deb October 4, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    I need to explore cooking with tamarind again. I bought some paste in a block and (unknowingly) it still had the seeds. I was able to extract enough to make the Pad Thai recipe I was trying but didn’t enjoy the recipe or the tamarind experience 🙁 Looking forward to seeing all the great recipes from the Tasting Jerusalem group with this unique ingredient!

    • Beth Lee October 6, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

      I am no expert as I stated above – never cooked with it before but it seems like the tamarind paste might be the way to go – small investment at an Indian store or Middle Eastern market. I paid 3.99 for mine and it’s pure tamarind, no additives. I’ll let you know how it goes and we’ll see what others do with it!

  3. Hannah October 3, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    I always enjoy tamarind and have not cooked with it nearly enough, so I’m really looking forward to this month! The recipes all sound very tempting. 🙂

    • Beth Lee October 6, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      I have to confess I’ve never cooked with it! Only eaten it as an ingredient in restaurants. But what a flavor profile – knocked my socks off when I tasted it the other day!

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