Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Tamarind Seeds and how to prepare them for cooking...

I have always had trouble finding certain spices since coming to live in France, and although I had been used to finding Tamarind in both 'dried block form' and in jars, in England, I have not been successful here in this part of France. My nearest big town is Geneva, in Switzerland, but it would be a tad extreme to drive 50 kilometres just for a jar of paste! 

And so I was delighted to find boxes of Tamarind Seeds in a new branch of the supermarket chain Grand Frais . I bought them having no idea of how to deal with them but knew I had recipes from Madhur Jaffrey's various books. In her Far Eastern Cookery, a BBC book, she shows how to use dried tamarind as sold in block form... so it couldn't be much different could it? A quick web search came up with ready made stuff and so I thought I would share this attempt. And it worked well.

 Above: opened box of Thai 'Sweet Tamarind, with the pods or shells clearly visible.

 Above: Take a bowl and crack the fragile pods. Within will be found the seeds covered by a sticky paste and what appears to be a 'net' of sorts. At the end of each pod is a pointed nipple. This can be easily broken off and pulled away, and with it a fibrous element that resembles a thin net. The paste covered nuts can then be separated and put into a bowl before the next stage; cooking.

 Put the sticky pasty nuts into a pan and add just a little water. It should not be too runny because what you want to end up with is a paste that can easily be spooned out, and thick enough to allow for a rounded spoon. Cook this water and tamarind seeds mixture until the sticky pasty covering starts to separate from the seeds. This should not take many minutes. Stir it to help the separation.

When you are satisfied with the consistency of the mixture spoon some of it into a fine sieve and, using the back of a spoon or a ladle, press the paste through into a clean bowl. As you do so, take your spoon and scrape the pressed paste from the underside of the sieve and dollop that into your bowl too. 

 As you continue the action you will see the seeds (photo above) becoming much more less covered of the sticky paste and your bowl filling up with ready to to use Tamarind Paste. I junked the seeds and the mess left over, but I suppose you could always plant the seeds, grow a tree and take it from there...

Finally you should be left with a good amount of ready to use, freshly made Tamarind Paste. Now find your recipes; Thai, Indian and Malaysian and make some great Asian meals.
I made Daging Nasi Kandar translated by Madhur Jaffrey in her book Far Eastern Cookery as "Beef Curry with Thick Onion Sauce" and Pacheri Terong which she translates as "Aubergine in a Thick, Hot, Sweet & Sour Chilli Sauce". Both dishes I have to say were wonderful; I have been using Madhur Jaffrey's books since the early nineteen eighties, when I was too poor to eat out (mortgage- raising young family etc.,) and in any case, with Ms Jaffrey's instruction both on BBC television and in her books I found I could cook better Indian (style) meals than the average restaurant, at the time, served.

If you should try this as given above, I would love to hear your comments...

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Snow covered chalets and refuge on GR5...

Just below the Cornettes de Bise mountain, on the GR5, 
above Vacheresse, Haute-Savoie, France.

A lone skier makes his way through the buildings
having descended from the Col d'Ugeon.

He had to stop several times to clear ice and snow;
 stuck to the bottom of his skis,
in the sheer cold.

As he passed; and greeted us on his way down,
he looked thoroughly pissed off.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Weather-brought White Stuff...

 And this was what the weather delivered between 10th and 12th of February... and so I thought;
if that is the amount fallen down here,
then what amount of lighter snow is there 'up there'?
 Here was the answer. An abstract view of a lot! Shapes against a French sky; 
deep and crisp
and even...
My son, wrapped against the cold, buttoned up and snow-skirted against 
the powdery white stuff that will find a way in;
strapped upon his snowboard, 
about to plunge down the slope, between the pines and through the
soft, soft snow.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The Sky's Weather Warning

A few days ago I noticed from my balcony,

overlooking the lake, a cloud formation, that at the time looked weird.

As the cloud formation changed I sensed that a weather change was upon us although I had not heard any particular forecasts...

The following morning
I was welcomed by this view...
Beautiful light against a threatening sky.
Yet more was to come.