Spiced Tamarind Drink and ‘Summers Under the Tamarind Tree’ Book Review

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I love nothing more than browsing through cookbooks on a Sunday afternoon (actually in truth it doesn’t have to be a Sunday), cup of tea in hand, gleaning inspiration and ideas and planning feasts that I will then cook for loved ones. Cookbooks that take me to foreign shores, where the recipes sound enticing, exotic and evocative are my favourite.  Photographs are also key as they help to set the stage for the reader.

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Image from Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani, photography by Joanna Yee. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20)

So it was with sheer pleasure that I received a copy of fellow food blogger, ‘Sumayya Usmani’s’ first cookbook, ‘Summers Under The Tamarind Tree – Recipes & Memories From Pakistan’. The first thing you notice is the beautiful, understated and yet elegant cover for the book. The tamarind tree is in the middle with Pakistani style art surrounding it. The green, similar to the Pakistan flag, really complements the golden ornate artwork. Before even opening the pages you know you are in for a treat.

Pakistani cuisine has never really been given it’s own voice here in the UK, so it was with this notion in mind that Sumayya set out detailing some recipes from her very own Pakistani heritage to share with a wider audience. She begins by giving the reader a brief overview of Pakistan both geographically and historically. Understanding it’s DNA helps the reader begin to understand the sheer breath of influences that make up Pakistani cuisine. The next few pages are filled with charming black and white, sepia and colour photographs of her growing up with her relatives in Pakistan and we learn about the wonderful food experiences that were etched upon her memory.

p85-SUTTT-Chapli Kebab-(c) Joanna Yee

Image from Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani, photography by Joanna Yee. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20)

The next chapter talks about cooking methods -‘Pakistani techniques explained’, which I found really useful and interesting to read. I love the sound of ‘dhuni (smoking)’ by infusing meat or vegetables with coal smoke. I also like the fact that there were some photographs accompanying some of the techniques. Before embarking on the recipes themselves Sumayya gives ‘A note on Spice’, which does not overwhelm the reader with too many spices – 9 spices will be mainly called upon within the book. She then gives us recipes to a number of her family’s masala blends. The chapters are organised along the lines of :

Breaking bread and sharing rice -breads and rice dishes

Meaty markets and weekdays bazaars – beef, lamb and mutton

Birds from the Empress – chicken and other birds

Sailing the seas – seafood and fish

My grandmother’s garden – vegetables, fruit and salad

Homegrown guavas – chutneys and pickles

Under a motia-filled sky – celebration feasts

The sweet taste of mango heaven –  desserts

Chani-pani – hot and cold drinks

p68-SUTTT-Nutty Saffron Rice-(c) Joanna Yee

Images from Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani, photography by Joanna Yee. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20).

It all sounds very tempting indeed. Standout recipes for me are undoubtedly: Hyderabad-style samosas, sweet potato and squash parathas, Baluchi-style chicken sajji, spicy crabs, yoghurt and turmeric soup with curry leaves and egg, slow cooked lamb shank curry, mummy’s festive minty beef kofta curry, mango and chilli pepper, spiced pomegranate sharbat. Anyone who loves spice (not necessarily heat) and flavour will love cooking and eating from this book. There are some refreshingly new recipes that will interest and encourage the reader to try some home-cooking Pakistani style.

p117-SUTTT-Biryani-(c) Joanna Yee

Images from Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani, photography by Joanna Yee. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20).

The recipe that was calling out for me to try and show you today was most probably the seed, from which the whole book grew. Summers under the tamarind tree – Spiced tamarind drink. It is Sumayya’s best memory of the many childhood summers she spent lounging under her tamarind tree. Once the weather heats up here in Blighty I think this drink will really come into it’s own. Move over elderflower cordial, spiced tamarind drink is taking centre stage.

 

Spiced Tamarind Drink

serves 4

4 tbsp tamarind pulp (from 200g/7oz dried or fresh tamarind)

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp kalanamak (black salt) or 1 tsp chaat masala

500ml/17 fl oz cups hot water

quarter thin slice of lemon

4 mint leaves, finely chopped

  1. Soak the tamarind in a bowl with hot water for 15 minutes. Use your hands to separate the pulp from the stones and then pass the pulp and tamarind water through a sieve. Discard the stones.
  2. Add the brown sugar, black salt or chaat masala (I used this) and then blend in a hand blender and chill in the fridge.
  3. Serve over crushed ice and add a thin slice of lemon and some fresh mint.

The sour notes from the tamarind will harmonise perfectly with the salt and sweetness of the drink. Roll on hot summer days, this drink is a keeper in my books, I hope you agree.

 

 


Chai Masala – Hot Spiced Milk

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I have a new favourite hot beverage – milky chai masala –  which I urge you all to try when it starts getting really cold, wet and windy.  It may not win prizes for appearance, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in taste.  It’s the perfect drink when you’ve been out in the cold and need warming up on the inside. It requires a spice or coffee grinder – I use this one and really recommend it – maybe something for your Christmas list if you don’t have one.

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I was recently given this recipe from a friend who in turn received it from her Indian neighbour. Like Chinese whispers I have altered  it slightly to suit my tastes but the finished result is equally pleasing. Wafts of black pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg come together to form a warming and comforting hot beverage that is guaranteed to please. Give it a try and let me know what you think by commenting below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Chai Masala

milk

1 tsp sugar (or to taste)

1/2 tsp of chai masala spice mix (see above)

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Spice mix

4 inch long cinnamon stick

1 tbsp black pepper

2 tbsp of seeds from green cardamom

1 tsp cloves

1 level tsp ginger powder

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

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1. Grind the cinnamon stick and black pepper in your spice grinder and then add the green cardamom seeds but not the husks, cloves, ginger powder and freshly grated nutmeg. Blend until all the parts have taken on a powder appearance.

2.  Store in an airtight container.

3. Gently heat the milk until it is boiling hot in a saucepan. When it is hot add half a teaspoon of chai masala spice mix and sugar to taste and continue to heat for another couple of minutes so that the spices infuse. If you think it needs a little more spice then add a little more of the spice mix.

4. Strain into cups immediately. The milky spice taste is so comforting that you won’t be able to resist another cupful.

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