People often give me a knowing smile when I say I've made a lentil dish. Oh yes, you're the lentil lady. You really love your lentils don't you?
You know when you acquire a reputation for something, and then you're not bothered about that original thing any more but everyone only ever associates you with it? Well, that's me and lentils.
I haven't had lentils for breakfast for months, neither have I even cooked them for ages. Enough with the lentils, people!
What is tamarind?Glad you asked. It's a lovely word, isn't it - which is why, when you Google it, you are presented with links to a great many restaurants called Tamarind.
It's an ancient fruit, indigenous to tropical Africa. The early Arabic name was romanised to tamar hind: Indian date. Aptly named. It lends its particular sweet-and-sourness largely to the cuisines of south Asia and Mexico.
I didn't think I was familiar with the taste, but tamarind is a key flavour note in Worcestershire sauce and HP sauce. I ate bucket-loads of those when I was a youngster. That's what made them so devilishly delectable!
Tamarind water & pasteNeil's recipe calls for tamarind water, and he says it is readily available in Asian grocery stores.
There is an Indian grocery in Neutral Bay, so I went in and confidently asked the young Indian who was serving if I could buy some. He didn't have a clue what I was asking for. Never heard of it. But he showed me tamarind paste, which seemed to lend itself to making tamarind water, so that's what I came home with.
I riffed on Neil's recipe in the end because he uses canned lentils and their water. Ewww. Not only do I not like canned lentils (purist, sorry), I hate that canned water. It's thick and dark and sludgey.
And I wanted to test his flavours on the toor dal I had impulsively purchased earlier in said Indian supermarket. I don't come across too many recipes for toor dal, so maybe this was their time to shine.
Here is Neil's recipe, if you're interested in the maestro's version: Lentils with tamarind sauce
Read on for mine.
Toor dal with tamarind sauce1 cup toor dal (or red lentils or channa dal, you get the picture)
water, 1 sliced garlic clove
1 tsp tumeric
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 minced garlic clove
1 tsp each turmeric & paprika
1 tsp tamarind paste melted in enough boiling water to bring it to a rich concentrate
approx 300 g tomato passatta
a scant half cup of stock (or boullion or water)
1 tsp each garam masala & cumin
For the dal: rinse and put in a pan with enough water to cover, plus the sliced garlic clove and 1 tsp of turmeric. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cook gently for about 1 hour. Keep checking the water level. They stick to the bottom of the pan if you're not watchful!
When the dal is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, give it a whisk for a smooth, creamy consistency.
Slice the onion and fry in a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Stir frequently to avoid sticking and burning. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Then add the turmeric and paprika and stir around for another minute. Smelling pretty fragrant by this time.
Add the tamarind concentrate and the passatta. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Add the dal and top up with stock if the mixture seems too thick. Add enough until you are happy with the consistency. Heat through. Last of all, add the garam masala and cumin and season with salt and pepper to taste.
The sharp sweetness of the tamarind balances the astringency of the lentils and provides a satisfying depth of flavour. Gorgeous with a big fat dollop of natural yogurt.
And how do you like to cook with tamarind? Pulp or concentrate? And if you have tamarind water, where did you get it?! Spill in the comments.