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These took 20 minutes, including stopping many times to wash my hands and take a picture. They are sweet, tart, and hot. Hot as in there's pepper in them. Of course, you can leave the pepper out, if you like. No cooking necessary. You take two or three simple ingredients and smush them together with your hands. That's it. Easy as making mud pies, and tastier.


You can make it even easier by buying tamarind paste. But I saw fresh tamarinds in the grocery, and decided to make them from scratch, the way my mother showed me to make them when I was a child.

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You start with sugar, tamarinds, and hot pepper (optional). You can use pepper sauce instead of the hot peppers. I used some dried chilies which I crumbled by hand. You can sweeten with brown sugar or white. I'm not going to give measurements. If you feel you need them, use this recipe as your guide. Unlike mine, it has the advantage of having no tamarinds seeds in it. Unless you buy the tamarind paste that still has the seeds included.

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Crack the tamarind shells open gently with your fingers, and pull out the tamarind fruit, seeds and all. My version of this recipe includes the dime-sized, shiny blackish-brown seeds. That was part of the fun of eating them as a child; spitting the seeds out.

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The fruit has a kind of cage that looks like tiny, woody vines. Remove that. I grasp the cage at the top and peel it away while pushing the fruit through the other side.

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Put the fruit and the crumbled chilies or the pepper sauce into a bowl. If the tamarind is a bit dry, a tablespoonful or two of water will moisten them. Don't drench them, though. You don't want to entirely melt the sugar.

Add the sugar. I go a bit at a time, working the sugar in as I go, until the texture is right. You want enough sugar to cut the tartness of the tamarind.

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With your hand, squeeze and mush the mixture. This is the mud pie part. Squeeze and mush, squeeze and mush. Add more sugar a little at a time, until you have a stiff, granular paste that you can mold with your hands.

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Here's what the paste looks like. You can see and feel grains of sugar.  Scrape everything off your hands back into the bowl. Wash your hands. Leaving them damp, form the paste into balls about the size of a cherry tomato. I put them on a plate with a sheet of parchment or wax paper on it.

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You're almost done. Put some more sugar on a plate or in a bowl, and roll the tamarind balls in it. This gives them a more finished look and helps to keep them from sticking to each other.

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The tamarind balls on the left have been rolled in sugar. The ones on the right haven't yet.

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And you're done. Make these in small batches. They will keep for a few days, but not much longer than that. They are basically raw fruit and sugar. And fibre; a lot of fibre. Unless your gut needs, um, regulating, I really wouldn't recommend nyamming up a batch of twenty of these in one go. And they are, after all, full of sugar. On the plus side, tamarind has lots of calcium and niacin.

 


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