Makes about 10½ cups/2½ litres
Preparation time: 20–30 mins; Resting time: 3 hrs
Tamarind is a contraction of the Arabic term tamer hindi which means “Indian date.” It is actually the name given to the syrup, paste, and the beverage prepared from the fruit of the tamarind tree. These are long, hard, shiny pods with brown seeds surrounded by a sour pulp. The trees grow in the wild but are cultivated for food in certain countries. Tamarind is a good source of vitamin B and calcium and is used as a mild laxative in some countries. It is used in some parts of the world as a souring agent to replace lemon.
In the Arab world, it is only used in a few dishes and to make this beverage. Tamarind is available in semi-dried, packed blocks of sticky, dark, fibrous pulp and seeds. These are typically produced in India and have a shelf life of about 3 years. With the addition of water and sugar, it becomes a pleasant and refreshing drink with a sweet-and-sour flavour.
- 12 oz/350 g block of semi-dried tamarind paste
- 3 cups/700 ml boiling water
- 3 cups/1 lb 5 oz/600 g sugar
Separate the tamarind mass into chunks and place in a bowl.
Cover with the boiling water and set aside for a few hours until the pulp dissolves in the water.
Rub the tamarind pulp and seeds with your fingers, and add 3 cups/700 ml cold water.
Place the mixture in a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl and press on the tamarind to extract all the juice.
Transfer the pulp residue to a small bowl and add 2 cups/480ml cold water, rubbing the mixture with your fingers. Strain into the large bowl as above.
Repeat the procedure a third time with 1 cup/240 ml water.
Add the sugar to the tamarind juice in the large bowl and stir to dissolve.
Refrigerate and serve very cold with ice and water to dilute as desired (about ¼ cup/60 ml water per cup/240 ml juice).
Note: After step 3, the sour juice can be used as a substitute for lemon juice in some recipes.
Extracted from The Aleppo Cookbook: Celebrating the Legendary Cuisine of Syria, HarperCollins NZ, RRP $50.00