Indigenous to Sudan and grown in many tropical regions, tamarind is a curiously sour-and-sweet ingredient. I’m not quite sure what to call it, since it’s used (often, anyway) as a fruit, but is genetically a legume. Like other legumes, it is dense in calories but high in fiber, iron, and a variety of minerals.
Tamarind can be an acquired taste, but I find it delicious. I’ve heard it described as “sweet-sour,” but really, it’s more sour than sweet. It is an incredibly versatile ingredient found in everything from complex and savory main dishes to addictively sticky-sweet candies. The Tamarind Orange Cooler we’re making today is a nice introduction to this ingredient. It makes a cheerful breakfast drink or (my preference) an awesome way to rehydrate after a workout.
If you’d like to try tamarind without fussing with fresh tamarind pods, pick up a jar of tamarind paste: Tamicon Tamarind Paste 8oz In the recipe below, simply substitute 2 tablespoons tamarind paste and 8 ice cubes for the frozen tamarind cubes. If you’re using jarred tamarind paste, you can skip all the way to the last step (Step #5) below. So easy!
Ingredients (Makes 2 coolers)
1/2 pound of whole tamarind pods
3 cups orange juice
Step 1) Use your fingers to remove the shells from the tamarind pods (similar to shelling peanuts, very easy). Also remove any big fibrous strands you see underneath the shell.
Step 2) You will be left with long, sticky pods of tamarind flesh. It’s not very attractive, but it’s delicious! Feel free to sample the tamarind, just be careful not to bite into the seeds (think of peas in a pod) that are hidden inside the flesh! Place the pods of tamarind flesh in a saucepan and cover with water. The water level should be above, but not more than 1 inch above, the tamarind pods.
Step 3) Simmer the tamarind flesh in water for about 20 minutes. The flesh should look like it is beginning to dissolve in the water. Remove from heat and strain the contents of the saucepan through a fine sieve – SAVE THE LIQUID. Using a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon, push as much of the softened tamarind pulp through the sieve as possible. You will be left with seeds and fibers, which can be added to your compost bin at this point.
Step 4) Transfer the liquid and pulp (all of which has gone through the sieve) to an ice cube tray and freeze for several hours or overnight.
Step 5) After freezing, combine 8 tamarind ice cubes and 3 cups of orange juice in a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Enjoy!