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Ottolenghi's Secret Ingredient (& How to Use it in Cocktails, Cakes, Curries, Etc.)

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So you bought a jar of tamarind concentrate—one of Ottolenghi's "secret ingredients"—to make 100 Garlic Clove Curry from Made in India by Meera Sodha.

But after adding the 1 teaspoon called for in the recipe, you still had approximately 1,000,000 teaspoons between you and the bottom of the jar.


(Disclaimer: Many cooks who frequently use tamarind, like Food52 user Panfusine, prefer tamarind paste—which you can make at home from blocks of shelled, pressed tamarind pulp. Soak the block in hot water, then push the pulp through a sieve and discard fibers and seeds. But if you are buying concentrate, look for brands without any added corn syrup; Panfusine recommends the brands Laxmi and Joy.)

Tamarind Chicken

Tamarind Chicken by Summer of Eggplant

Lamb Ribs with Tamarind, Honey, and Toasted Peanuts

Lamb Ribs with Tamarind, Honey, and Toasted Peanuts by Sara Jenkins

Dan Barber's Braised Short Ribs

Dan Barber's Braised Short Ribs by Amanda Hesser

Vegan Pad Thai

Vegan Pad Thai by Gena Hamshaw

Luckily, many Indian, Southeast Asian, and Latin American recipes (see above), rely on the ingredient for a sweet and sour, tangy and tart taste, and the jar will keep in your pantry until well after you've obscured it with other ingredients. Hold onto it forever and your favorite pad thai will never be so far out of reach.

But tamarind—in whatever form you've acquired it—is no one-trick ingredient. You may love it in chickpea curry or the sauce for roast chicken, but don't stop there. A sibling, flavor-wise, to pomegranate molasses, tamarind just might be the ingredient your crumb cake or cocktail is missing.

Pomegranate Molasses Crumb Cake
Pomegranate Molasses Crumb Cake

Here are a whole lot of ideas for using a teaspoon or two to make your next curry or cocktail or caramel more exciting. (You'll be getting another jar before you know it.)

  • Add it to any chili, curry, or dal for a rich and sour sweetness. I particularly like it in tomato-based soups, stews, and shakshukas.
  • Thin it with milk, sweeten with confectioners' sugar, then use it as a glaze your next pound cake or banana bread.
  • Mix a couple teaspoons with lemon juice and ginger-infused simple syrup and top off with water for a tropical lemonade.
  • When you stir together the liquid ingredients for granola, add a spoonful of tamarind concentrate. (Tahini and maple syrup would be good additions, too.)
  • Stir some into Bourguignon, beef or mushroom.
  • Loosen it with water, then add it to this crumb cake in place of pomegranate molasses.
  • Its molasses-y tang makes it the perfect partner to chocolate and warm spices like cinnamon and ginger. Try it in your next chocolate or gingerbread cake.
  • Add it to ginger cookies (along with chunks of white chocolate).
  • Swirl it into brownies or use it in place of some of pomegranate in these caramels.
  • Make tamarind ice cream by mixing it in with condensed milk in Nigella's no-churn method.
  • Add it to a cocktail with whiskey, bourbon, or gin. At Pok Pok, chef Andy Ricker shakes a Tamarind Whiskey Sour with bourbon, lime juice, tamarind paste, and simple syrup, and garnishes it with an orange.
  • Plunk some into the sauce for a stir-fry, or splash it into a noodle soup.
  • Smear it in a stuffed yeasted bread (even better if it's a chocolate babka).
  • Take your roasted vegetables out of the oven 5 minutes early, add some tamarind concentrate thinned with water or stock, stir everything around, then send the baking sheet back into the oven for a final crisp.

Favorite way to use tamarind paste? Ready, set, go (in the comments below, please).

Tags: tamarind