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.