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One Thousand Year Old Recipe

I get dozens of recipe requests weekly. Some enquiries are redirected to my recipe page. Others are advised to search my cookbooks.

And some, like this one from Isvari Rani Dasi (from India I think), are answered as a blog entry. Isvari wanted me to share my Tamarind Rice recipe. My recipe looks exactly like the picture below.

tamarind rice:

I don't have the original photos from my cookbooks. They are securely kept in a vault at my publishers. My scanner is not working, so I have used a picture from cookingand

And here's that delicious recipe, originally given to me by the wife of a South Indian Hare Krishna devotee friend Vijay Gopikesh, many years ago, when I was collecting recipes for my second cookbook Cooking with Kurma.

South Indian Hot, Sweet-and-Sour Tamarind Rice

This is a well-known and favourite rice dish amongst the Iyengars of South India who are followers of the Ramanuja Sampradaya. The recipe is over 1000 years old and is traditionally called puliogre. Makes enough for 4 or 5 persons.

1 walnut-sized ball of seeded tamarind pulp,

½ cup hot water,

3 cups water,

1½ cups basmati rice,

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds,

½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns,

¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds,

2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds,

3 tablespoons dried coconut,

2 teaspoons rasam powder,

1 teaspoon salt,

2 tablespoons brown sugar,

3 tablespoons peanut oil,

2 tablespoons raw peanut halves,

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds,

8 - 10 small curry leaves.

Combine the ball of seeded tamarind pulp with the ½ cup hot water and set aside to soak.

Bring to the boil the 3 cups of unsalted water in a small saucepan.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy saucepan and lightly toast the rice.

Add the boiling liquid to the rice. Stir until the water returns to a boil; then reduce the heat to a simmer, put on a tight-fitting lid, and leave undisturbed for 15 or 20 minutes or until the rice is dry and tender. Remove the rice from the heat and set aside, covered.

Squeeze and strain all the pulp from the soaking tamarind with the aid of a seive. Keep all the liquid puree and discard the dry pulp.

Dry-roast the cumin seeds, black peppercorns, fenugreek, and sesame seeds in a small, heavy pan over moderately low heat. Stir constantly for about 3 minutes until the sesame seeds become aromatic and the spices darken a few shades.

Remove the seeds and spices from the pan, allow them to cool, and then grind them in a small coffee grinder or blender until they are powdered. Combine them with the coconut, mix well, and place them in a small bowl.

Combine the tamarind puree, rasam powder, salt, and sugar and simmer the mixture over moderate heat in a small saucepan until slightly thickened (about 3 - 5 minutes). Remove from the heat. Add the ground spices, seeds, and coconut mixture into the tamarind syrup and mix well.

Heat the peanut oil in the small pan in which you roasted the spices. Place over moderate heat. When the oil is hot, add the peanuts and stir-fry them until they are golden brown (about 2 minutes). Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. Continue heating the remaining oil and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the seeds crackle, pour the contents of the pan into the tamarind syrup and mix well.

Finally carefully fold the peanuts and spicy tamarind syrup into the cooked rice and serve immediately.