Friday, 10 September 2010

Swiss chard, chickpea and tamarind stew

Now, I love the sharp tang of tamarind, it makes my tongue feel alive especially when I am feeling poorly. I have to admit when others are feeling fluey, they may make a lemon drink, well I like to drink hot tamarind. So when I saw this recipe in the Guardian last year. I immediately tore it out to cook one of these days. Well that day arrived. It was so easy for me to put together as I had all the ingredients at home, small jar of tamarind concentrate remaining from the tamarind tofu and surprisingly even caraway seeds.

The recipe comes from Yotam Ottolenghi, chef/patron of Ottolenghi restaurant in London which he co-owns with Sami Tamimi. Ottolenghi is from Israel and Sami Tamimi is from Arab Eastern part of Jerusalem. Together, with their diverse backgrounds they have shared and introduced some robust flavours such as sumac, za’atar, ras el hanout, tahini and tamarind to a new audience. These spices, herbs, seeds and dressings all generously coat fresh vegetables, greens, grains and pulses, making them mouth wateringly appealing. The restaurant is not vegetarian, but serves a good selection of vegetarian and vegan based dishes. It is their creative and flavour packed dishes that have brought them into prominence, especially on the London food scene. I couldn't help myself comparing Ottolenghi to the Gate Restaurant, but the last time ‘veggie cuisine’ was promoted so highly in the mainstream like this was when the brothers Adrian and Michael Daniel opened their restaurant the Gate in Hammersmith, London in the early 1990s. The brothers introduced big, bold and bashful flavours like red and green harissa and zhug (schoog), and plating up exquisite and innovative looking vegetarian cuisine.
Although not a vegetarian himself, Yotam Ottolenghi features as the Guardian’s 'The New Vegetarian' column contributor. This space was previously honoured by Rose Elliot. Rose Elliot is a renowned British writer on vegetarian cooking. She has written over 50 vegetarian cookery books. She is a patron of the Vegetarian Society U.K and in 1999 was appointed MBE for services to vegetarian cookery. In fact Rose Elliot successfully pioneered the popular vegetarian column in the Guardian Weekend magazine, before being replaced by Yotam Ottolenghi. Rose Elliot is a committed vegetarian and a true advocate of vegetarian and vegetable based cuisine. Although she has been extremeley successful, I have noted that her books were marketed purely to a niche audience, namely vegetarians, whereas Ottolenghi has been able to win over vegetarians, non-vegetarians and vegans with his world influenced modern dishes, many of which happen to be vegetable based. For which I have to say Thank You. I have to admit Ottolenghi salads are far more interesting in flavour combinations than those you get from your regular deli; and for that many of us are grateful that vegetable based dishes on menu’s are being seen in a different light - appealing to a much wider audience.
Well, I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed each mouthful of this stew and why wouldn’t I? It contained ingredients I enjoy eating: the texture of chickpeas and the waft of coriander. As the rice absorbed the tomatoey tamarind sauce, it reminded me of a South Indian tamarind rice dish known as pulihora or puli sadham. D had one gripe, the stew had got cold very quickly, but other than that it was good, very good.
Swiss chard, chickpea and tamarind stew
Serves 4 with plain Basmati rice
300g Swiss chard (stems and leaves), cut into 1cm slices
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp whole caraway seeds
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon tomato paste
400g tinned plum tomatoes, chopped up, juice and all
2 tablespoon of tamarind concentrate
300ml water
400g cooked chickpeas
1½ tsp whole coriander seeds, toasted and ground to a powder
Salt to taste
Greek yogurt (optional) for serving
1 big handful coriander leaves
Serve with plain basmati rice
Bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil, blanch the chard for two minutes and drain.
Put the onion, caraway and olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan and sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the onion is soft and golden. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the tomatoes, tamarind concentrate, water, chickpeas, ground coriander and chard, and season to taste. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, by which time it should be the consistency of thick soup. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Serve with plain Basmati rice.
To serve, spoon the rice into shallow soup bowls, then make a crater in the centre of each mound. Pour a ladle or two into the rice crater. Spoon yogurt on top, if you like, drizzle with oil and finish with lots of coriander. Slightly adapted from the original recipe.


  1. Thank you Thank you this looks so good. I am going to make some today.

  2. I have no idea what that berry is but the picture is awesome! The stew looks outstanding too!

  3. Thank you so much Rina.

    Thanks Vic.

  4. Now I am no expert, but that looks to me like a laurel bush and berries, and they are highly poisonous, so please don't eat. That stew looks very tasty indeed though.

  5. Kath,
    As soon as you said laurel bushes it rung a bell. Thank you So, so much. I certainly won't be picking them.

  6. Hi Mangocheeks, and thank you for the good wishes, they're really appreciated.
    These berries have me stumped! They look a little like Cherry laurel, but I couldn't say for certain. How long are the leaves?

    I really enjoy the New vegetarian column in the guardian, though I preferred Rose Elliot (but then again I live just left of nowhere, and za'atar, pomegranate syrup, ras el hanout etc are pretty much impossible for me to get hold of. It's frustrating to see a salad recipe with half a dozen ingredients that I can't get hold of!).

    I've never had tamarind as a hot drink, only cold (like the Mexican agua fresca). Any chance of sharing your hot tamarind recipe?!
    Much love

  7. just catching up with all your lovely recipes, photos and trips - will bookmark this recipe as I need to use up tamarind and I quite fancy trying this

    Am interested in your comments about rose elliot and Ottolenghi - I did not know much about ottolenghi but I am a big fan of rose elliot and love her cookbooks though her more recent ones seem a bit less appealing - but I find her earlier cookbooks are ones I go back to again and again -whereas I see ottolenghi recipes and enjoy admiring from afar but they don't seem to be the sort of thing I might cook.

  8. Your so welcome littleblackfox :D
    I think it is laurel too, now confirmed by Kath and yourself. The leaves were about 2 inch in length and 1 inch wide.

    I am beginning to see the named ingredeints in at some upmarket shops, but quite pricey. There are one or two South Asian and Middle Eastern shops here, so I cn sometimes can find the ingredients there and a bittle more reasonably priced. Yes, I too liked Rose Elliot, but I quite like Ottolenghi too. He has a black pepper tofu recipe that I really want to try, so that is next on my list.

    The tamarind drink I make is not the same as my mother who makes it in bulk and uses a Indian 'chaat masala' mix (This typically consists of amchoor (dried mango powder), cumin, black salt, coriander, dried ginger, salt, black pepper, asafoetida and chili powder). I simply do a cheats version. To taste I add some tamarind concentrate to a mug, try a teaspoon and then adjust to taste, a pinch of salt and chilli pepper and let it sit for a few minutes for the flavours to infuse and then sip, slowly - feeling it on my sore throat (bliss). The chilli pepper can be replaced with freshly ground black pepper too.
    Heart felt warm wishes to you.

  9. Thanks Johanna.
    Although mine is not that different from the original, Please do check out the original recipe too.
    I was interested to read your comments re my blog entry. I'm with you and agree that Rose Elliot recent cookbook have not been as appealing as those in the past, so its not surprising that one of her old books has been republished. By the way, the one book I am looking forward to being released is by Denis Cotter 'For the Love of Food: Vegetarian Recipes from the heart'. But will have to wait until March when its launched.

  10. That stew looks devine! The picture had me drooling. Yummy!

  11. Thank you Angela.
    Its so lovely to hear from you.

  12. This looks really good! I'm now following your blog! I'm trying to cook very healthy for myself. I've lost 20 pounds since summer time just by eating healthy, and walking a lot during lunch time while at work. I think eating healthy and exercise is the BEST way to loose weight!

    Thank you for making a few comments on my Apel Blog!

  13. I thought that plant looked like an English laurel, as well, (aka: cherry laurel). The seeds of the berries, the stems, & leaves can be fatally poisonous! Enjoying your blog; thanks for visiting mine. :)

  14. Thank you so much Alissa.
    That is very kind of you.

    I need to get out of my office more and walk. I was doing it a lot last year, but this year...

    Lady Jay Pee.
    Thanks for confirming the laurel too. I have a lot to learn about foraging.

  15. That looks so good. I have a boat load of kale coming up in my garden. Just waiting for the first frost to make it sweeter.

  16. Thanks Lori.
    Homegorwn kale is a wonderful thing.

  17. This looks wonderful and a grat fall dish. :) Thanks for sharing!

  18. Thank you so much for your comment Janet.


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