Sunday, 28 June 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #14 – Tamarind

Spicy Beetroot, Leek & Walnut Salad
Dee – Tamarind was the featured ingredient from October 2013, and presented the greatest challenge to date for me when selecting the recipe to use it in.  It all stems from a cooking disaster that Jay and me had a few years ago when we used 4 tablespoons of tamarind concentrate in a recipe which called for 4 tablespoons of ‘tamarind’.  The results were…well, you can imagine I’m sure.  Anyway, from that moment on, we’ve both been extremely wary of any recipe in which it featured.  We’ve learned from our mistake though, and have brought the tamarind concentrate under control, so that it imparts its distinctive sour, earthy flavour without completely overpowering the dish that it’s featured in.  As yet though, we haven’t used tamarind in any other form.
On to the recipe in hand, and I chose this one firstly because Jay is a big lover of beetroot, and secondly because I was drawn to its colourful and photogenic qualities.  It is described as being influenced by the cuisine of Georgia, which we sampled and enjoyed as part of our world cuisines project (click here for details)
The tamarind formed the basis of the salad dressing, where it was accompanied by cider vinegar, chilli, garlic, walnuts and seasoning.  It worked very well with the other ingredients, and as mentioned previously made its presence felt without swamping the other ingredients.
The salad had a very earthy flavour, without the sharpness that I was expecting.  The pomegranate seeds, added at the end as a garnish, provided small bites of sweetness to add a bit of variety.  We used ready-cooked beetroots, so the salad was extremely simple to prepare, the most difficult part being the slicing of the cooked leeks into bite sized pieces without them breaking apart.
Despite the salad having chunky beetroot and leeks and a strongly flavoured dressing, it didn’t quite make for a complete meal in its own right.  On the other hand, it was too substantial to serve as an accompaniment to meat, fish or vegetables, so we went for what we considered the best way to enjoy it, as part of a meze/tapas type meal consisting of three different salads.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)


  1. What a lovely choice! Glad you overcame your fear of tamarind which is really a great ingredient tho the form factor certainly does matter. Do tell what the other meze salads were!!??

    1. Thanks, I'm glad we're ok with it now too. It definitely added an extra dimension to this dish.

      The accompanying salads weren't from the Jerusalem book but I don't think they were too out-of-place.

      The first was a raw salad of finely sliced white cabbage, onion, tomato, cucumber and herbs, dressed with lemon juice.

      The second had delicate salad leaves, boiled new potatoes, fennel and mint, with a dressing including grapefruit juice, tarragon vinegar, capers, oregano, olive oil and seasoning.

      We were going to have bread with it too but the three salads filled us up nicely, with leftovers too.

  2. Tamarind has such a beguiling flavor--so glad you gave it a second try. Thanks so much for your post! Do you think adding crumbled feta on top would have worked and made it more of a main course type of dish?

    1. Thanks, we enjoyed making the salad, and eating it of course ;-)

      I hadn't considered feta as an accompaniment, but I think it would work really well. It's definitely good with beetroot. Will give it a go next time.