A simple, spicy prawn dish from Roopa Gulati
In India, youngsters climb tamarind trees and search for the pods, which when cracked open, reveal deliciously tart and sticky pulp. It’s this sweet-sour flavour that makes it an invaluable addition to curries, confectionary and condiments across Asia and beyond.
Tamarind is an everyday ingredient in many parts of India and works really well with the mellowness of palm sugar and the astringency of ginger. You can buy tamarind concentrate in packets from Spice Mountain. If you are able to get hold of some fresh pods, you will need to take out the pulp and simmer it in a little water before sieving to remove fibres and stones.
1 bunch of spring onions
4 tbsp vegetable oil
50g ginger, finely chopped
2 red chillies, seeds removed, shredded
750g raw prawns, shelled
2 tsp tamarind concentrate
1 tsp toasted ground cumin
½ tsp garam masala
50g jaggery or 2-3 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
2 tbsp coriander, chopped
For the lime rice:
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp raw peanuts, skinned
3 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp turmeric
Rind of 1 large lime, grated
Juice of 1-2 limes
250g basmati rice, boiled and cooled
Cut the white part of the spring onions into 3cm lengths, and thinly slice the rest.
Heat the oil in a wok set over a high heat and fry the spring onions and chopped ginger for 1 min. Add half the shredded red chillies with the prawns and continue cooking for another minute.
When the prawns begin to change colour, stir in the tamarind concentrate along with 3-4 tbsp water. Add the ground cumin, garam masala and jaggery (or sugar), and cook for a further 1-2 mins until you have a thick-ish sauce. Stir in the chopped coriander and scatter the remaining red chillies.
For the lime rice: heat the oil in a large pan or wok and fry the peanuts until golden. Add the mustard seeds and continue frying for about 30 secs, stirring all the time. Turn the heat down low and stir in the turmeric, lime zest and juice.
Spoon the rice into the wok, heat through until piping hot and serve straight away with the prawns.
ALTERNATIVE: You can occasionally find fresh tamarind pods at Borough Market. You will need 4 tbsp fresh tamarind pulp. Scoop the flesh from the shells and soak in enough boiling water to barely cover and leave on one side for 10-15 minutes.
Push the pulp through a sieve and discard any seeds and fibre. Set aside. If you fancy a special occasion treat, try this recipe with 10-12 shell-on prawns. They need a minute longer to cook than the shelled ones.