Friday, 9 July 2010

Broad beans and shallots in a hot and sour tamarind sauce

There are only a couple of fat green broad bean fingers to pick in my garden. Not enough for a meal, so whilst I am waiting for more of them to fatten, I picked up some from the local supermarket for this evenings meal.

Now there were a number of recipes I could have made that would have allowed the flavour of the fresh broad beans to come through, but for those of you who have got to know me a little through blogging will know that I like big and bold flavours and this dish delivers. The seasonal broad beans and shallots remain the stars of the dish, but they are complimented wonderfully by the hot and sour sauce. Hot from the flecks of Scotch bonnet (from my freezer) and sourness from tamarind.
Tamarind paste is a deep dark chocolate coloured pulp. It is made from the fruit of the tamarind tree. The fruit itself is shaped like a long bean, inside which is a sour pulp. The pulp can be processed to make a paste or pressed to form a 'square cake'. Small pieces of tamarind cake can then be broken off and infused in hot water to create an acidic liquid flavouring used in South Asian cooking. I've always loved the sourness of the tamarind and could happily drink it, but you don't want too much as it is quite acidic. A dish that you may be familiar with if you regularly frequent an Indian restaurant is Imli chutney usually served alongside poppadoms or samosas. For readers overseas, you may be familiar with tamarind drinks such as agua de tamarindo or traditional sour soup in Thai cooking.

A few good years ago, when I started reading up on the origins of fruit, vegetables and history of ingredients, particularly those that came from overseas into the U.K. I was very interested to learn that a key ingredient of Worcestershire sauce and Brown sauce was tamarind.

Anyway, if you can't find the tamarind paste, look for the tamarind cake which I recommend purchasing from a South Asian store as it will cost a fraction of the price. When you find it, follow this link where the Indian actress turned chef Madhur Jaffrey shows the technique of extracting the flavours from the pressed cake which can be used for this recipe.
Broad beans and shallots in a hot and sour tamarind sauce
Serves 3 - 4
1 ½ Tamarind paste
300g shallots or small onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 cloves garlic, minced
250g broad beans
½ Scotch Bonnet (aka Habarneros) chilli, minced
Dilute the tamarind concentrate in 4 tablespoons of hot water and set aside.
Ina wide pan, large enough to hold the shallots in one single layer, heat the olive oil, then add the shallots and fry them briskly, shaking the pan from time to time for a few minutes until they go quite brown.
Temporarily remove the shallots to a plate and add the sliced onion to the pan, turn the heat down a bit and fry for several minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add the mustard, fennel and cumin seeds, turn the heat up again and fry briskly for a moment or two, until they start to crackle. Add the garlic, broad beans, partly cooked shallots and chilli and stir well to combine.
Pour in the tamarind liquid and enough water to come about halfway up the vegetables, then cover ad simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until both the beans and onions are tender. If there’s too much liquid left at the end, remove the lid, turn up the heat and allow most of it to cook off until reduced to a aromatic sauce. Serve with plain boiled rice. Slightly adapted from Catherine Masons Vegetable Heaven.


  1. Hey Mangocheeks, I love broad beans and tamarind is wonderful too. I've never had them together, but your dish looks delicious-yum!
    Hope your beans fatten up soon, and have a relaxing weekend. Movie night starts here in a minute-yes!

  2. I adore the flavor of tamarind! I am so glad to be seeing it used in your recipe! Yay!, and YUM!

  3. I love that sourness of tamarind but have not used it very much. This recipe sounds exciting and tempting. Bet D enjoyed that.

    ...and Madhur Jaffrey was an actress first???? I don't think I knew that or likely I just forgot)))))...did you read her book Climbing the Mango Trees...? I must read it again..

  4. I like tamarind, but I never cooked with it. Thank you for sharing the recipe ;-)

  5. This is interesting.Youre very creative. We use a lot of tammarind in our cooking here and you re right . WOrsceteshire sauce has tamarind as one of the ingredients! It is such an English sauce and I was surprised too that it contained tamamrind wh is such a south east asian ingredient. :)

    you have a very interesting blog and very creative recipes. itll be good to see what else you come up with. thanks for dropping by :)

  6. hot from the scotch bonnet - nooooooo!

    sour from the tamarind - am curious! have some in my fridge and only used it for pad thai but I know I have seen recipes with it in them - maybe the worcestershire sauce in a good way to think about it

  7. Look at those broad beans! I can't recall that I have ever seen them before-wow.
    I did not know that one of the ingredients worcestershire sauce comes from the tamarind. I learn something new everyday.

    Cheers to your broad beans and your lovely dish.

  8. I have never tried cooking with tamarind before as I have never been sure what to do with it. This has given me some inspiration.

  9. Ooh that looks good. Great minds think alike, I just posted about broad beans too. You will soon be enjoying hat harvest.

  10. This sounds amazing - I love Tamarind - cant wait to try it, thanks for sharing!

  11. Oh I love the taste of tamarind. A little local Laotian restaurant gives tamarind sweets after the meal - they are so good.

    Do you think dried broad beans would work? I recently bought a bag from an Indian grocery store and haven't really looked at what to use them in yet.

  12. Thank you Stella
    Yes I can't wait for my beans to fatten up!

    Thanks Morgan.
    I'd happily drink the stuff, but i thinks its best to have it part of a dish.

    Thanks Gardeningbren.
    D was a little hesitant about the dish, but once he starts eating - he does tend to change his mind for the postive.

    And yes, Madhur Jaffrey was an actress first. He ex-husband was the actor Saeed Jaffrey.

    I must admit, I have not yet read her book Climbing the Mango Trees. Keep meaning to pick it up, I will at some point. Promise

    Thank you Alessandra.
    Tamarind is an acquired taste. When you do get to try it, I hope you like.

  13. Thank you zurin.
    I too grew up in a household that used tamarind in particular dishes. So for me this was this was rather experimental. I'm looking forward to trying it in differnt dishes, other than the ones I grew up eating.

    Oh Johanna.
    You can omit the scotch bonnet!

    I think worcestershire sauce is def. a good way to think about it.

    Thank you Velva.
    I think broad beans are also known as fava beans. I def. recommend eating the fresh, rather than the dried variety.

  14. Thank you Mark.
    Try drinking some first and then think forward about dishes. I think it would be good as a gravy too.

    Ah Thanks Kath

    Thank you freerangegirl.
    Really hope you like!

    You know what Christine.
    I don't actually remember ever eating tamarind sweets, but I am sure I must have?!!?

    To be honest, no I don't think dried broad beans would work here, as they need soaking and then when cooked they will disintegrate. Fresh broad beans are def recommended here. You will have to think of another recipe to use up those dried beans (sorry).

  15. I love the idea of this combination. Your recipes are always so compelling. And, the end result looks so picture-perfect and sumptuous.

  16. Rose, Rose, Rose.
    Thank you so much for such a beautiful compliment. I am truly touched.

  17. Another lovely and unusual recipe.

    I have just picked my very first broad beans.....ever! So excited.

    They tasted heavenly - so much nicer than the shop bought ones, and more beans in the pod too.

    Never tried Tamarind before, I am getting so many ideas from your Blog, thank you!

  18. Thank you so much Green Jeannie.

    Ah I remember picking my first ever home grown broad beans. Such a wonderful feeling opening the pod, not only finding and tasting the fresh beans, but the pods itself is a wonderful furry coat for the bean, don't you think?!

    Tamarind is an acquired taste, quite sharp and tangy. I'd recommend making some to drink first, then see if you want to cook with it.

  19. Oh pity about the dried ones...what to do with them...

  20. Sorry Christine.
    Soup perhaps.

  21. wow, my mouth is watering. THis looks delicious.


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