Trini ‘Tambran’ (Tamarind) Sauce’

I remember being about 6 or 7 at the time (for some reason I put a lot of childhood events between this age range) when I tasted my first Tamarind Ball. It was dark in colour and resembled a golf ball that had been rolled in sugar. My brother told me it was (pepper) ‘hot’, so as neither of us could bear hot pepper at the time I avoided them as best I could.

But then a few weeks later, I thought I’d pluck the courage to go try one of these ‘sweets’ as my Dad called them. He had brought them back from a short trip he’d made to Trinidad to see my Grand – parents and extended family. I had watched on with envy as my Mum and Dad devoured them with child like pleasure all week and couldn’t understand the fascination with something that resembled liquorice but tasted like pepper.

The moment the Tambran was in my mouth, I was met by an unusually sweet sticky texture which I chewed on for a couple of seconds, before coming across the odd black seed (which I guessed had been missed). Then came the pepper of fire, which turned out to be more like a tickle rather than a punch in the mouth; it was over before I knew it. I loved them!

From then on I void never to follow my brother’s advice (in relation to food) ever again.

The recipe below is for Tambran sauce, I thought it would be better to share the sauce rather than the sweet/savoury balls with you because it’s a very versatile sauce which can be added to a number of sweet, savoury dishes or even drinks!

I’ve used this sauce in the Bara and Channa which is joining the blog soon, and hopefully I’ll share a drink with you too! Enjoy

Nutritional Value: 

Each 100 grams of tamarind contain 36% of the thiamin, 35% of the iron, 23% of magnesium and 16% of the phosphorus recommended for a day’s worth of nutrition. Other prominent nutrients include niacin, calcium, vitamin C, copper, and pyridoxine.

'Tambran' (Tamarind) Sauce

  • Servings: 10-20 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

10 sweet tamarinds, shelled and de-seeded

2 to 3 cups water

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 pinch of salt

2 cloves of garlic – crushed

1/4 medium onion – grated finely

1/2 tsp scotch bonnet pepper – chopped finely (or more!)

Method

Once you have removed the shell from the tamarind, rinse the tamarind under running water (this is to make sure any bits of the shell still on the fruit are completely removed.

You will see a boney like membrane running along the fruit, remove that too if possible, otherwise, transfer the tamarind a saucepan. Pour into the saucepan, two cups of water and bring the pan to a fast boil, you will see the tamarind begin to dissolve, you can help the fruit separate from the seed by mashing it with a potato masher. If the liquid starts to thicken, add more water and lower the heat. This should take 5 -7 minutes.

Take the tamarind off the heat, pour the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, leaving behind the husk and the seed. You want to add the husk to the remaining sauce and discard the seed. Now return the tamarind sauce to the saucepan.

In the saucepan, add the remainder of the ingredients and bring it to a medium boil to help thicken the sauce. Once the sauce is at the consistency you want, allow it to cool and store in sterilised jars in the refrigerator.

West African Peanut Stew

 

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Thick, thin or soupy. Depending on where you are, peanut stews can be found across the whole of West Africa. This is one dish I really wanted to get right, it had to be as authentic as I could possibly get it without having to grind the peanuts to make butter myself. This dish is usually made with chicken, but as someone who is attempting but failing badly to wean off meat, I thought I would try and make this with vegetables.

The question was, which vegetables to use and to combine. My choice was based on several factors: texture, colour, and combination. As I would be missing meat, I had to make up for that with giving the stew something to chew on. IMG_7451No one likes over-cooked discoloured vegetables, well I don’t and so I needed vegetables that could hold their form, or at least help thicken the stew. I decided against courgettes for that very reason: they tend to get very watery when cooked and lose both colour and texture. Aubergines on the other hand taste better when they melt away into a pulp, especially helpful for this thick sauce. And then the small black flecks of eggplant skin still shine through the soup.

Then in honour of this stews ‘roots’ (sorry for the pun), sweet potato was an easy choice, it forms the ‘meat’ of this stew. The mushrooms also help to add a depth of flavour and save you having to add a heap of water to the dish, you want a fairly intense sauce.

Try and keep the vegetables as chunky as possible and add them in stages, I added to green sweet pepper, right at the end when all was said and done (i.e. cooked) for example as again I wanted to retain the bright green colour and crunchy texture. You will really enjoy this with the coconut and lime rice also on the blog…happy cooking!

West African Peanut Stew

  • Servings: 4-5 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 large (orange flesh) Sweet Potato – cut into chunks
1 large Aubergine – cut into cubes
1 cup mushrooms – roughly chopped
3 spring onions – cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 medium onion – chopped finely
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 cup of chopped plum tomatoes (and juice)
1/2 medium green sweet pepper- chopped 1″ squares
4 garlics crushes
3 sprigs thyme
3/4 cup peanut butter

To Temper

1 tsp tumeric
1 whole scotch bonnet
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 whole cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fenugeek powder
1 tsp corriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp of Asafoetida

salt to taste
Roasted peanuts (garnish)

Method

Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large pot. Add the chopped aubergine to the pot and let it cook for about 5 minutes stirring frequently. You can cover the pot with a lid, lower the heat and allow the juices from the aubergine to soften it. When its cooked, take it out the pot and set it aside.

In the same pot, add 2 tsp of oil and all the ingredients under ‘to temper’, fry gently under a medium heat for about 30 seconds. Then add all the onions, garlic and thyme the temper and fry until the onions have softened. Then add the mushrooms followed by the aubergine and all it to cook gently.

Then add all the remaining ingredients to the pot except the peanut butter: you want to dissolve the butter in some hot water first to help distribute it. Then add the peanut butter to the pot with all the other ingredients (except the green peppers). Cook under a medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 20 mins or until the potato is cooked.

Season to taste. Serve with rice

Authentic Brioche

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Brioche can be enjoyed any day of the week. But it tastes so much better freshly baked on a Sunday morning. While the loaves were baking in the oven, their buttery scent has a way of drifting upstairs and filling the house with warmth. So nice! I wanted to bake this bread weeks ago but time wouldn’t allow me to do it. Brioche demands patience. People often ask me how do I find the time to cook/ bake ? The simply response is day and night: first thing in the morning, last thing at night. So for the Brioche and Jelly this is how I squeezed it in: I got home late Saturday evening and mixed the dough as it needs a good 7 hours or more to rest.

Then I woke up early this morning after spending a few moments connecting with my Creator; and took the dough out the fridge for an hour for it to get to room temperature. I shaped the dough and then went to the park and did an hour run (as I knew the dough would need at least 3 hours to rise).

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When I came back I started on the grape jelly. Then I did some domestic tasks and  returned to the kitchen to put the loaves in the oven.  At the end of the day you just have to maximise the time that you have. And in the end the reward is great: crusty buttery bread with a fluffy texture served with sweet black grape jelly and spicy hot chocolate. Now to the park to catch up on some reading…

Recipe taken from How to Bake by Paul Hollywood published by Bloomsbury.

Brioche

  • Servings: Makes 2 medium loaves
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting 7g salt

50g caster sugar

10g instant yeast

140ml warm full-fatmilk

5 medium eggs

250g unsalted butter,softened, plus extra for greasing

1. Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the milk and eggs and mix on a slow speed for 2 minutes, then on a medium speed for a further 6–8 minutes, until you have a soft, glossy, elastic dough. Add the softened butter and continue to mix for a further 4–5 minutes, scraping down the bowl periodically to ensure that the butter is thoroughly incorporated. The dough should be very soft.

2. Tip the dough into a plastic bowl, cover and chill overnight or for at least 7 hours, until it is firm and you are able to shape it.

3. Grease two loaf tins.

4. Take your brioche dough from the fridge and tip it onto a lightly floured surface and fold it in on itself a few times to knock out the air. Divide it into 2 equal pieces. Then divide each piece into three more pieces.

Take each piece of dough and roll into 12″ tubes. With three on the tubes, start plaiting the dough starting from the centre working your way to the end, sealing the end. When you have plaited one side, flip the plait over and plait the other side to the end. Then moisten along one side of the plait with water and join the ends together.

Then place the folded plait into the loaf tin. Repeat the process again with the other piece of dough.

5. Cover the loaf tins with a clean plastic bag and leave to prove for 2–3 hours, or until the dough has risen to just above the rim of the tin.

6. Heat your oven to 190 c (gas mark 4-5)

7. When the brioche is proved, bake for 20–30 minutes (in the middle shelf) or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Bear in mind that the sugar and butter in the dough will make it take on colour before it is actually fully baked. Remove the brioche from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

Copyright © Ranette Prime and Love Loretta’s Kitchen, 2014. All rights reserved.

Spring Salad Series: Fennel with “Ranch” Dressing

 

I had a spring in my step last weekend. For the first time in about 5 months or more, the first signs of Spring began to emerge. The most noticeable effect of this glorious beam of sunshine and clear blue skies, is actually waking up happy. Seriously it’s as simple as that: when you have spent the last winter waking up and working and going to sleep practically in the dark, it’s like someone literally flicked a switch on in a dark damp room: suddenly everything is clearer and looks attractive.

London feels like a welcoming place again. Another noticeable change is my appetite. I don’t know about you, but it’s a lot easier to eat and enjoy fresh fruits and salads in the summer than it is in the winter.

Maybe the problem started when we started eating fruits and vegetables out of season, I mean the king of comfort vegetables, Pumpkin just feels better in winter than in the middle of March right? That’s why I thought for this months recipe I would work on a couple of salads that suit the warm crisp air of Spring.

I can’t promise you warmth, but these salads are definitely fresh and crispy. I combined a couple of them in a tortilla wrap with the vegan ranch dressing last night…amazing! I didn’t miss meat or cheese at all.

So here to start the Spring Salads Series off is Fennel. Fennel with its aniseed like flavour is a great source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, folic acid, vitamin C and potassium. It also helps with digestion (particularly that of fat…yay!), stomach cramps and freshens breath.

Fennel Salad

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: easy
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Servings: 3 Prep time: 20 mins

Ingredients:

2 Fennel bulbs, finely sliced length ways

1 large celery stalk, finely sliced (against the grain, ‘V’ shaped slices)

1/2 Cucumber – shredded

Drizzle of Lemon Juice

1/2 cup Pine Nuts – lightly toasted

Toss all the ingredients together, leaving the pine nuts until last as you want them to retain their crunchy texture. You can then drizzle in the lemon juice or stir in the vegan ranch dressing. As I said great in a wrap or as a side dish.

 

Sushi & Tofu

IMG_3240You might find it hard to believe, but I am not someone who is very adventurous when it comes to trying new foods: I like to stick to what I know. I’ve come a bit further down the line then where I was a few years a go. I never thought the day would come when I would actually enjoy snacking on cold rice which is essentially what I summed up sushi to be. I was first introduced to sushi whilst at university about 12 years ago. My housemate’s girlfriend at the time is Japanese and she would often prepare sushi at the weekend with him. She must have cornered me or something because I went from going in the kitchen to wash dishes to clapping down a ‘scrambled egg mayo’ sushi she had made. I wouldn’t say it was like fireworks in my mouth (sorry it does get better believe me), but my interest was peaked.

The second occasion was probably another 10 years after that, this time it was salmon. But again the whole ‘lets go  Yo Sushi’ vibe didn’t really sit well with me. I wanted cooked food. Until one day whilst hovering around in Sainsbury’s looking for something else, I came across a Sushi Kit. And so I thought, OK if I’m going to get over this fear of Sushi I have to take it on…and make it my own. So I apologise from now to any Sushi lovers, but I have made some adaptations. I am on the bridge, I have yet to cross over to the over side, but I can see the summit…I’m almost there.

Sushi and Tofu

  • Servings: 4 rolls (6-7 slices per roll)
  • Difficulty: medium
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For this recipe you will need:

250 g Sushi Rice

4 Nori Sheets

Bamboo Rolling Mat

Cling Film

Wasabi Paste (optional)

The method below will assume you have not bought the kit, obviously if you have the kit, you can follow the instructions there!

For the filling, I added the following:

1 Ripe Avocado sliced length ways

1 Red Sweet Pointed Pepper – sliced thinly length ways

1/2 medium onion (grated)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 tbsp coconut cream  or sushi vinegar (to add to the rice)

Dash Soya Sauce/ Hoisin Sauce

1 carrot sliced thinly ideally with a julienne peeler 

And for the Tofu

Firm Tofu sliced into 1/2 inch slabs (6 slices on average)

3 tbsp Soya Sauce

3 tbsp Teriyaki Sauce

2 garlic cloves minced

1/2 tbsp honey

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Marinating the Tofu

Before anything else marinade the tofu. Place all the ingredients for the tofu in a saucepan and warm gently to release the flavours. Take a rough guess of how much to make depending on how many slabs of tofu you have prepared. Then pour the mixture over the tofu and making sure it is fully submerged in the marinade. Then refrigerate.IMG_3224

Cooking the Rice

Put the rice into a bowl and wash with cold water. Repeat 3 or 4 times and then drain rice in a sieve. Add 330 ml of water and the washed rice to a saucepan. Bring the rice to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for 15 – 20 minutes. Do not open the lid!

While the rice is cooking, and this is entirely optional gently stir fry the peppers and carrots in with the onion and garlic and Hoisin sauce. You still want the vegetables to be crunchy, you are simply flavouring the vegetables before adding them to the rice later. Remove the vegetables from the saucepan and allow them to cool completely.

Layering and Rolling

With the rice still warm, stir in the coconut cream or the sushi vinegar if you prefer. Then let it cool down further. Then set up your equipment: on a hard surface place lay out a clean tea towel for stability. Then place the sushi rolling mat with the lines facing horizontally. Following that, cut some cling film so that its slightly larger than the rolling mat (by 1 inch or two). Then take a Nori sheet and place this on the mat also.  Then take some spoonfuls of rice place then randomly over the Nori sheet, and with your fingers spread the rice out until you have a thin layer covering the sheet.

Next comes the layering, I decided on this order: peppers, carrots and avocado, thinking about how it would look once sliced. I also added a slight drizzle of the marinade from the peppers and carrot. The key is to place the vegetables one inch from the edge and then roll the sheet and mat away from you as if you were rolling up a sleeping bag: tucking it in tightly as you go along.IMG_3233

You should leave about 1/2 an inch around the sheet ‘green’ so that you can seal the sushi roll when you reach the end with water if necessary, When you get to the end of the sheet give the sushi a final roll in the mat to even out the shape, the cling film should be fully wrapped around it by this time. Then twist the two end like a sweetie wrapper.  Place each of the rolls in the Fridge. When this is done, place the Tofu in the oven or under the grill for 10-15 mins. By the time the Tofu is ready the Sushi should be cool enough to slice into 1 inch sections.

Serve with wasabi paste, or pickled ginger or soy sauce. Try alternative fillings e.g. crispy salmon and cucumber.

Chinese Pot Stickers

IMG_2832Ah! The day I discovered pot stickers: I was introduced to these fancy dumplings by a close Malaysian friend of mine who also shares my fascination with food from around the world. She told me about a restaurant off Liverpool Street in London called Ping Pong who apparently churned out these steamed parcels all day and night.

It happened to be Chinese New Year 2013 celebrations that weekend, so when we discovered that Ping Pong were also throwing together ‘Dumpling Classes’ to celebrate the year of the Snake, we signed up straight away. In the end we didn’t end up going…pretty much how most of my adventures with my friend ended up, but I did manage to persuade another friend of mine to try the restaurant out. Setting: Ping Pong Restaurant; In the midst of our discourse about the failing economy, social injustice and men our intense conversation was interrupted by these delicate yet crispy parcels correctly entitled Gyoza’s. Here begginneth my relationship with the Pot Sticker.

Pot Stickers

  • Servings: 30
  • Difficulty: medium
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½ cup (or 4) Spring Onions finely chopped

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

2 cups Chinese white cabbage, finely shredded

1 cup carrots, grated

2-3 garlic cloves chopped

1 sachet black bean sauce (120g)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 package round gyoza skins or wonton wrappers (around 30)

Salt to taste

1 egg (whisked) or water (in a bowl)

Vegetable Stock cube or jelly

In a Wok or large saute pan, add a little oil and saute garlic and ginger. Add the mushrooms and stir.

Add the cabbage, carrots and onion. Keep frying until the mixture is soft, and then place in colander to drain. IMG_2816Save the drained liquid.

Stir in the black bean sauce little by little, just enough to taste, you don’t want soggy vegetables or a puddle of black bean juice.

Add the sesame oil when mixture is cooled. Check for seasoning. Set aside to cool down.

Lightly flour your chopping or side board.

Take a gyoza skin, lay flat on board. Take a level teaspoon of the vegetables making sure you get a good mix and place in centre of circle.

Then take egg wash or water and wash the circumference of the skin (always wanted to say that word).

Now fold the wrapper in half like an envelope, sealing it to form a half-moon shape, keeping the bottom flat.

Then pinching the corner (I start with the right) fold the corner inwards, like making a paper fan, pressing each fold gently.

 

IMG_2819In a hot non-stick pan, coat with oil and place dumplings.

When bottom gets brown, mix together the drained liquid from earlier with the vegetable stock jelly (should make up 1/4 cup of liquid all together), taste and add water if necessary.

Pour over the frying dumplings and cover immediately.

This will steam the dumplings. Carefully watch the dumplings and completely evaporate the water so that the bottom gets crispy again and sticks to the pot.

Serve with Soya Sauce or any dipping sauce of your choice.